I was asked to lead the youth group in a lesson about Daniel, who persevered in the ways of God and faced the lions for it. Maybe Peter has Daniel in mind when he urges the early Christians to suffer for doing what is right. Their job is to be who they are meant to be—images of Christ in a broken world. As such, they should not be surprised when the same world that has rejected Christ rejects them.
But Christ gives hope, so like Christ (and Daniel), the early Christians are called to be steadfast in serving their neighbors, persevering in peacefulness, and longsuffering in love even when living out their identity in Christ runs against the grain of the culture around them.
When I taught that youth group session, I asked if the youth could think of a time in American history when people suffered for doing what is right. I had in mind the African Americans who faced dogs and water cannons during the Civil Rights movement as they protested racial injustice deeply embedded in our nation’s history. I reminded the students that Martin Luther King Jr. asked all who marched with him to meditate daily on the teachings of Jesus. As they were being transformed into the image of Jesus, they could no longer accept the blatant injustices around them. And they suffered for the stand they took.
Whether it’s Daniel in the sixth century bce, Christians in the first century ce, or us in the twenty-first century, people of faith will be at odds with the injustices that cause some to suffer while others succeed. Thankfully, we have hope that the love that raised Jesus from the dead is stronger than the hate and fear we might have to face.
Dear Jesus, you suffered because of your steadfast dedication to your mission. Help me, even today, to be willing to suffer if that’s what being a faithful child of God brings. Amen.
In Acts, Paul visits Athens and finds the people worshiping various deities. He attempts to show them the one true God not by open confrontation but by understanding where they are in their own thinking and then engaging in conversation. This model is confirmed in First Peter: We should always be prepared to give reasons for our faith, but this should be done with gentleness and respect, not confrontation. The psalmist promises to make offerings in the Temple to the Lord because God has brought the people through a period of testing. The psalm thus also ties into First Peter, where the believers are being tested. Jesus tells his disciples in John that God will send the Spirit to empower them to demonstrate their faith by keeping his commands.
Read Acts 17:22-31. When have you searched for God? How did God’s nearness surprise you?
Read Psalm 66:8-20. What tests have you endured? How have you known God’s presence through times of difficulty?
Read 1 Peter 3:13-22. How does your faith help you determine what is right? How does it give you courage when doing what is right brings you suffering?
Read John 14:15-21. When have you felt encompassed by the Trinity? When has your identity as part of this family felt fragile?
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