Sharing in His Suffering
Not all God's children have to die on the cross. It happens more often than we realize that Christians, in following Christ, are indeed crucified. How terrible this suffering must be for fellow Christians!
Whoever becomes one with Christ, shares in his suffering and in his glorification.
Suffering together with others is not always easy and doesn’t feel right to us. It is not easy to suffer for Jesus. We can be laughed at and even be abused for him. At school or at work it can entail suffering when we undergo the reproach of Christ and thus carry the cross after him. We must expect that more and more, because in our society we are increasingly in the minority. And tolerance does not increase! Let's have a look at what the Bible teaches us about that.
It is a great miracle when you may have communion with Christ and also experience it. It is a little bit of heaven on earth. Should you, therefore, be surprised when in following Christ you also take part in his suffering? It does not happen by chance. It is not because of your sins! It is because of him, who loved you so much that he gave his life for you, even on the cross. Should you not be happy that you belong to him and therefore share in his suffering?
Jesus himself says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.” He also says, “Blessed are you when people persecute you. Be glad and rejoice.”
Jesus taught his disciples a thing or two. At a certain moment he even washed his disciples' feet. He humbled himself and assumed the form of a slave. That is why he taught his own that they have to be the least among each other.
“He who wants to come with me has to take up his cross and follow me.” This teaching was not only for the disciples at that time. Also today, there is no other way to follow Jesus than bearing the cross after him.
The Christian life is a life of self-denial, of being willing to be the least, of service. The closer we live to the Lord, the easier it is. It is not without struggles and also not without prayer. But it will be, in faithful following, a first attitude to life. More than once it shows that we did not understand this lesson and that this teaching of the Lord has not led us to a life of faithfulness. We are too much in the way ourselves!
Jesus himself shows by example and teaches his disciples to follow him.
In His Footsteps
Peter understood the teaching of his Master much better. We see that in what he writes to believers. Besides, Jesus told him: when you come to repentance, then strengthen the brothers. When Peter “saw” why his Saviour had to suffer on the cross and die, he also could teach others the way to follow the Lord.
Jesus did not call his abusers names when he was abused. When he suffered on the cross, he did not threaten, but even prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
This is how Christians should live, Peter writes. Do not retaliate when you have to suffer. But give it all over to God, who judges justly. And look at him who was crucified. He “carried” our sins to the cross. Let us then walk in his footsteps. Let us follow his example.
Remember repeatedly, especially in difficult circumstances when you have to suffer for Jesus’ sake, what Jesus has done for us and what he has shown us.
Peter uses an image that suits us. In educating children you write things on a blackboard. Then they see it before them and it sinks in better, especially when the teacher explains it. Do the same, Peter says. Not in consideration of spiritual life, but in the practice of a faithful life. To show, in words and deeds, Jesus in your daily life. Maybe deeds make a better impression than words. Because words are easy. If it comes to deeds, it shows what truly Christian life is in following Christ.
To be a readable letter from Christ is perhaps the strongest testimony. We are called to proclaim the gospel of Christ crucified and lead others to Jesus, who suffered on the cross for the forgiveness of sins.
Most convincing is maybe living an exemplary life as Christians who have learned to live out of Christ and to live for him.
Then he becomes visible in them.