Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. 17 For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. 18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God. – 1 Peter 3:13-18
I never had much of a questioning mind as I grew up – apart from trying to figure out how to make my mother love me as much as she seemed to love my little sister, or those kinds of mysteries of family dynamics. When difficulties would come our way, I didn’t wonder why, I just dealt with them as best I could. Financial challenges and pressures at our family’s motel were high on the list. But we just did what we could to weather the storms and worked our way through it.
Those challenges and pressures, however, pale in comparison to the kinds of suffering, and injustice the early Christians suffered. They were rejected by the Jewish religious leaders and regularly persecuted by the governing authorities. Some were slaves of cruel taskmasters. They suffered physically and emotionally and unfairly.
On the one hand it would be easy for them to answer Peter when he asks, “Who is there to harm you if you are zealous to do good?” They could say: My master, my fellow slave who wants to take my job, the magistrates, soldiers, and synagogue leaders who want to make an example of me for whatever reason. There are plenty of folks who want to make my life miserable.
They could not say that Jesus did not know such suffering. Nor could they say that he was kind and faithful only to good and righteous folks. If they were to look to Jesus as an example, they would have to be kind to all people – no matter the cost: even that of their life.
Jesus died to bring us to God. He was more committed to our salvation than he was to his comfort, or fair treatment. Martin Luther says it well:
I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord,
who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death,
that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him [emphasis added] in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness,
just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true. – Luther’s Small Catechism, The Creed: Second Article Explanation
I don’t relish suffering. I want a nice life as much as anyone. But if we are called to suffer – even unjustly – we have the most significant opportunity to share hope and point to Jesus as our gracious and righteous Savior and Lord.