Do Not Be Ashamed (1 Peter 4:16)
[Yet] if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. —1 Peter 4:16
“You’re not one of those Christians, are you?” he asked incredulously. I was 20 years old. I had only been a Christian for about three years. And it was the first time I remember being faced with the choice of identifying with Christ or denying "that name." My heart began to race; time seemed to stand still and I wondered how I should answer.
At the time, I was a Navy Midshipman on a summer cruise learning about enlisted life, and that week I was serving on a tug boat. In that dreaded moment, the tug was docked at the pier, and a sailor was organizing the thick, heavy lines (ropes) we used to pull large naval vessels into port. He was older than I, stronger than I, and, bothered by Christians. As he was complaining about Christian hypocrites, he looked up at me mid-sentence and asked, “You’re not one of those Christians, are you?” This was the moment when I was supposed to be prepared “to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). It was the moment to “glorify God in that name” (1 Peter 4:16). So, I looked him straight in the eye, and I said, “No! I’m not one of those Christians.”
Immediately I felt ashamed. The irony is that, as I remember it, he was not asking in order to ridicule me for my faith in Christ. I think he genuinely realized that after bad-mouthing Christians, he may have offended me. But instead of confessing Christ, I chose self-preservation. It’s funny, isn’t it, that Peter is the one to tell us “if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed” (1 Peter 4:16). Peter denied Jesus three times after his arrest (Matthew 26:69-75). But Jesus restored Peter, asking him three times, “do you love me” (John 21:15-19)? Peter knew what it meant to be ashamed of Christ, but he also knew the mercy of Christ in restoration. This is why Peter urges us not be ashamed but to glorify God in “that name” (1 Peter 4:16).
Because we identify with the name of Christ, suffering will come. We shouldn’t be surprised (1 Peter 4:12). Instead, we are to count it a privilege to share in Christ’s sufferings (1 Peter 4:13-14). But there is a difference, Peter says, between suffering for the name of Christ and suffering for our own sin. For all who suffer "as Christians,” we need not be ashamed. If we are ashamed of Christ, we will deny Him. Instead, when facing Christian suffering, we are to glorify God in “that name”—the name we take on when we identify with Christ: Christian. All who are ashamed of Christ will face judgment (1 Peter 4:17). But all who endure faithfully will receive the promised inheritance.
When have you been faced with the choice of publicly identifying with Christ or denying Christ? How did you respond? If you failed like I did that first time, run to Christ. Confess your denial and ask for His forgiveness. Be reminded of Jesus’ mercy after Peter denied Him three times. And rest in Jesus’ faithful obedience on your behalf.
Are you afraid of suffering for the name of Christ? What are some ways you can “arm yourselves with the same way of thinking as Christ” in relation to suffering in order to “not be ashamed” and “glorify God in that name”?
Juan Sanchez (Ph.D., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as senior pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church. He is the author of numerous books, his most recent being The Leadership Formula: Develop the Next Generation of Leaders in the Church. Juan has been married to Jeanine since 1990, and they have five adult daughters.