“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening
to you.” 1 Peter 4:12
To continue from last week, we are looking at the current wave of persecution around the globe of those calling themselves Christians. In the book of 1 Peter, God tells us a lot about
persecution. In fact, this book of the Bible could be called a handbook on suffering persecution. It was written just before the outbreak of the Roman persecutions under Nero in 64 A.D. In this connection, 1 Peter 4:12 could be looked on as a prophecy of the coming Roman persecutions of the Christian Church. But of course, 1 Peter 4:12 is applicable to Christians of all time. Christians of the 20th century should expect to be persecuted for their faith as were the Christians of the 1st century.
It should be stressed at this point that wherever the book of 1 Peter talks about suffering, it is not “any old kind of suffering” that is in view. Christians suffer heart attacks and car accidents and depleted bank accounts and missed appointments and bad colds, but these are not the kinds of suffering that Peter has in mind. These are problems, to be sure, and in the Christian’s life God can use all these things for our ultimate benefit. (See Romans 8:28-29.)
However, the sufferings of 1 Peter are persecutions that come upon the Christian precisely because he is a Christian–slander, reproach, mockery, scorn, put-downs, cut-downs, verbal flak, verbal abuse, social ostracism, physical torture, and even some martyrdom. Have you ever experienced any non-physical persecution and hate on your campus or on your job because you’re a Christian? Maybe you’ve suffered a lower grade in a course or even lost a job or promotion because of your Christian testimony. This is all part of normal
Christian living and should be expected. In some countries even physical persecution is a way of life for Christians.
Although persecution of the believer is to be expected and is “according to the will of God” (v19), let us remember that this is a family matter. We are the “beloved” (v12) children of a “faithful Creator” (v19) Who always has our best interests in view. Verses 17 and 18 remind us of the vast difference between the persecution of the believer in this life and the punishment in the next life of the godless unbeliever who refused to obey the gospel of God. The Christian who understands God’s reasons for allowing persecution not only expects to be persecuted but is willing to suffer persecution.