3 Myths about Christian suffering | 1 Peter 4:12-19 | Chapel Hill Church
There was an English pastor who recently planted a church in LA. He recalled one of his first nights in LA, heading out to a bar, to try and build relationships in the community. He struck up a conversation with a group of three people. They talked a little about each other’s’ lives, with each of them sharing what they did for a living. Eventually, the question came to this Englishman in their midst: what do you do?
He said, “Well, I’m here in LA because I’m starting a new church. I’m a pastor.” The first person immediately spat out a mouthful of the drink they had just sipped and walked away. The second person sighed, turned, and walked away. And the third person said, “But you’re so nice!”
This was back in 2010, and it would be fair to say that the cultural opinion of Christians has not got any better in the last 12 years. Rejection and insults towards Christians are becoming more and more the norm in the US. For many this is deeply saddening. Many of you grew up in a country where Christians were held in high esteem, pastors were as trusted as much as doctors, and publicly professing your faith furthered your career. Not so today. The cultural opinion of Christians has changed dramatically in the last half century. And today’s passage helps us to see why that might be, and how God might actually use this for good.
Welcome to Chapel Hill. My name is Ellis. I’m one of the pastors here. And I am very grateful to be back in person after having worshipped online for a few weeks. Thank you for your prayers when I took a fall and hit my head. I sustained a concussion, and after further testing and evaluation the doctors don’t believe anything more sinister is at play. I’m grateful to those who supported us with childcare and food and prayers and notes of encouragement. Thank you, Chapel Hill.
Today, we’re continuing our series through 1 Peter, which we’re calling Exiles: Believers in an Unbelieving World. And one of the realities of being a believer in an unbelieving world is experiencing suffering for our faith. In today’s passage Peter is going to address this issue of suffering, but before we dive into it, I want to clarify the type of suffering Peter is talking about.
In this passage, when Peter uses the word suffering, he is referring to a particular type of suffering that we might call, Christian Suffering. And to help us understand what this is, we might distinguish it from another type of suffering, with which I would expect we are all much more familiar, and that is what I am going to call, Common Suffering.
Common suffering is suffering that is experienced by everyone, believer or unbeliever. Cancer, sickness, violence, death, and loss. Common suffering is a seriously tough issue to deal with. Especially the question of how could a good God allow such suffering to take place. This passage doesn’t address that question, but I did preach on it a few years ago, and we have linked to that sermon in this week’s guide.
Christian suffering, is suffering that is particular to being a Christian. It is suffering that is particularly linked to our affiliation with Christ. And Christian suffering, on the whole, is not something we in the west are familiar with. The church in the global south, which incidentally is by far and away the fastest growing segment of the church, is very familiar with Christian suffering. They know what it is to be ostracized from their family for choosing Jesus, they know what it is to worship in fear of the authorities arresting them, and they know what it is to be imprisoned or martyred for their faith. We don’t.
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