1 Peter 2:21-23, “21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”
As we’ve been considering throughout this series in 1 Peter suffering is a primary theme in 1 Peter. Peter in this epistle has already spoken of our response to suffering in general teams, calling God’s people to rejoice in our sufferings because by them their faith is tested and purified (1 Peter 1:6-7). He also has told his readers to lead honorable lives among non-Christians (1 Peter 2:12), telling them one specific way they can do this is to endure unjust suffering, refusing to repay such mistreatment with evil (1 Peter 2:18-20).
In 1 Peter 2:21-23, Peter discusses suffering in general terms once again. In 1 Peter 2:21, readers are instructed that Christians have been called to suffer. The Christian’s suffering is not the result of an impersonal force, such as fate or chance, but instead, a vocation laid upon them by the Father.
Let’s be honest here if it were left to us to decide whether to suffer or endure hardship and challenging situations for doing what is right, we would instead choose to not go through them. Few things in life are harder to do than to treat those who mistreat us by treating them as they would like to be treated (Matthew 7:12). Thankfully, we are not left to ourselves. Christians have been given the Holy Spirit to enable them to endure suffering. Christians have also been given the Word of God, which reminds them that suffering is not for nothing but is used by God for His sovereign purpose. Additionally, Christians have one another in their local churches to walk with one another where we are called to “bear each other’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:1).
When we consider Jesus Christ we can see how clearer the points in this article are about suffering. Peter tells his readers that not only is suffering a call for them, but it was also the call of our Lord Jesus. Jesus is our example of how to cope with suffering. All of the sufferings of Christ were unjust and yet He patiently endured them. Jesus did not retaliate in kind but instead entrusted Himself to the Judge of the universe who will perfectly repay all injustice (1 Peter 2:22-23).
Unlike Jesus, who endured the shame and suffered in place of sinners and for their sin and who now sovereignly replaces their hearts of stone with a new heart, with new desires and new affections, and indwells them through the Holy Spirit is unlike you, and I. Jesus is perfectly blameless. When He was reviled, He did not respond with malice or anger, nor when tempted did He sin. In every way, Jesus is suited to be our High Priest because He is the spotless Lamb of God. This is why He was qualified to die for our sins because He is sinless. Only through Jesus can we be saved and put sin to death in our lives through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
If we understand that Jesus is both like us and unlike us, we will approach Jesus in prayer coming boldly as Hebrews 4:14-16 invites us before the throne of grace. Jesus is not some genie in a bottle who we pray to. Instead, He is like us in that He was tempted, reviled, spit upon, talked badly about, and much more. He is unlike us in that He never sinned when mocked, faced suffering, or temptation.
Jesus alone endured it all for the sake of His people so that they might be forgiven, empowered through the Holy Spirit, and equipped through the Word of God to serve Him. And now what’s amazing and blows my mind is He invites us, even summons, us before the throne of His grace. He who knows us through and through has not left us to ourselves. He will not leave us ever. Instead, He who paid the penalty in place of sinners is with them through His finished and sufficient work. He now also empowers them through the Holy Spirit and calls them His friends.
It’s not just the example of Jesus that matters. It’s the totality of His life, His person, and His work. Christians can then embrace the call to suffer and turn to Jesus in their hour of need which is every day and every hour. John Calvin says, “nothing seems more unworthy and therefore less tolerable than undeservedly to suffer; but when we turn our eyes to the Son of God, this bitterness is mitigated; for who would refuse to follow him going before us?”
The Lord Jesus is our example in suffering when we suffer the same way He did. To do this, we must not retaliate in kind, but entrust ourselves in unjust suffering to the care of the Father, knowing, that He will justly repay all those who have treated His children unjustly. Please take time today to reflect on those times when you’ve suffered for His name as we’ve discussed it in this article. If you have retaliated for such mistreatment, please repent and then go and make amends if possible. It is never too late until the day you breathe your last to say you are sorry to another person. Then ask the Lord to enable you to entrust yourself wholly to the sovereign care of the Lord.