In studying the teaching of Jesus and the epistles that are based on those same teachings and inspired by the Spirit, I am overwhelmed by the sense that our God does not want us to live mediocre lives. I do not mean that he wants us all to be rich and famous, although that may happen, more that he wants us to shine through every circumstance of our life. He does not want us to take the challenges of each day and live with that, instead he wants us to go for the greater challenges. Jesus said:
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)
Do you see that? Don't love the status quo but go beyond. Everywhere you look in his life he forgave, he loved and he gave with extravagance. He has his Father's heart who didn't just bless us with salvation but poured out every spiritual blessing on us. Can we see suffering in this same way? Jesus suffered for us with great extravagance. Abandoned by those he loved, falsely accused and disrespected, beaten by bullies, skin ripped from his bones, publicly humiliated, nailed to a cross, left to die alone, to suffocate. He didn't just die, he suffered great sufferings in an extravagant demonstration of the Father's love for us.
With this imagery running through our mind we read what Peter wrote to the followers of Jesus who were slaves:
Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. (1 Peter 2:18-19)
This is an attitude that many of us seem to have lost as we fight for our rights and stand in the belief that no one should ever be able to come against us. Yet, throughout the Word we see that we are expected to stand up under the pains and sufferings of life even when we are in unjust situations. Our notion is that our God will swoop down and rescue us from everything that comes against us but especially the injustice of this world. Yet, we see time and again that we are often left in those situations, given the strength to bear it and used mightily as a witness of Jesus character as we face such things with joy and perseverance. This is often God's preferred way as he speaks to people through our weakness. But we are also warned not to cause trouble for ourselves and then call it the same thing:
But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? (1 Peter 2:20)
Do not consider yourself under persecution and suffering if you have to pay a fine for speeding or you got cancer from smoking, or you were jailed for not paying your taxes. These are hardships due to your own foolishness. Now, if you confess and repent God will give you the strength to bear these things as well, just don't claim to be suffering in the name of Jesus. However:
But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:20-21)
That's the part most of us do not want to hear, that we were called to this. Remember that Peter is addressing this to the slaves. Can you think of a more unjust situation to be in? It is not that Peter is condoning slavery but he is recognizing that we need to be Christians wherever we find ourselves in life. It would be great if we could all be rescued and live great lives of privilege but we were not called to such a thing. We were called to experience life along with the unsaved of this world, to wallow in the muck and mire, to face hardships and trials of every kind in order to demonstrate the love of Jesus to the unsaved of this world.
Think of Paul on the ship that was doomed to become shipwrecked as he traveled to Rome to face Caesar. Stuck in a storm in a powerless boat on the sea, Paul was literally in the same boat with everyone else. Yet, he spent his time encouraging the others, praying with them, leading in worship, giving direction. He became a beacon of hope for those who had lost all hope. Imagine yourself in just such a situation. Jesus did not suffer for himself but for us. Understand that you suffer the injustices of this world not for yourself but for those who need salvation. We need to get a thicker skin, to bear more things, to be better witnesses and to demonstrate the sincerity of our faith. When all else fails, remember what Jesus did for us:
"He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth."
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:22-25)
Now, today, live in such a manner for others. Set aside your desire for rescue, and live to the fullest in the situations you find yourself today. Live to bring Jesus glory and for others to see Jesus in you even in the suffering of injustices. Or I should say, especially in the injustices you face today.