This blog continues my translation and study of the First Letter of Peter
I PETER 4: 12
My dears, don’t be alienated by the burning fire which is here to test you, as if something foreign had come upon you. Rather, be glad in so far as you share Messiah’s sufferings, so that you may still be glad – and dance with joy- at the revelation of his glory. If you are taunted for Messiah’s name, how fortunate you are, because the spirit of God’s glory has tarried upon you. But none of you must suffer as a killer, thief, wrongdoer or busybody; yet if you suffer as a follower of Messiah, give honour to God under that name. The time has come for the judgement to begin with the household of God, and if we are the beginning, what will be the end of those who reject God’s joyful news. As the proverb asks, “if the just person is barely rescued, what will be the fate of the godless sinner?” So then, those who are suffering in accordance with God’s will, should entrust their souls into the keeping of a faithful creator, and do the right.
EARLIEST PUBLIC IMAGE OF THE SUFFERING MESSIAH doors of Santa Sabina, Rome 410CE
OK, so we’re facing some kind of persecution as an assembly of Jesus Messiah, perhaps through the enmity of our neighbours, perhaps through orthodox Jews denouncing us as a new and unlicensed religion, perhaps through overzealous imperial officials. The nature of the “suffering” is mainly dishonour and social difficulty, but occasionally goes so far as a legal lashing.
Now some guy writes to us in the name of Peter, the one who has been lauded as a true shepherd of all believers. And what comfort do we get, what sensible advice about preserving the life of our families and community? “Be good citizens and submit to suffering if it is God’s will!” Why on earth should God want us to suffer? Because we get a share in the suffering of Jesus? Why on earth should Jesus want us to share his suffering? Does it make his suffering better if someone shares it? As for “dancing with joy” at being shunned by my neighbours, seeing my kids isolated because they won’t let their kids play with mine, perhaps being refused a necessary credit because I’m now considered a foreigner, that would just be further evidence of my insanity!
And by the way, my idea of God’s judgement is when God’s enemies get what’s coming to them, not yet another “testing” of God’s friends. If all this happens through the “joyful news” could we see a bit more ordinary joy, please?
Some such response can highlight the extraordinary nature of the messianic faith. Messiah, the victorious One, has suffered. Things have been done to him that he didn’t want to happen. Unable to control events he was abused and killed. That’s the joyful news because it places God’s Messiah on the same level as ordinary suffering human beings, and even more, of sinners and outcasts who have been rightly rejected by the community. All who identify with this Messiah who identified himself with them, will share some of his suffering in the world, and his new and splendid life in God’s kingdom.
We should see that people who believed this are crazies and extremists. A man or woman who can no longer be controlled by the threat of disadvantage or death is an extremist, even if they never use violence. Any sensible state will want rid of them.