The Power to Endure Unjust Suffering (1 Peter 2:24)
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. —1 Peter 2:24
What do you do with unjust suffering? We understand suffering as a consequence of sin or a foolish decision. But what are we to think when we suffer because we follow Jesus? Do you have a category for righteous suffering?
The Bible reminds us we will suffer for righteousness’ sake (Matthew 5:10). We know the world hates Jesus and that if we belong to Him, the world will hate us too (John 15:18-19). But do we believe that we are called to suffer for His sake (Philippians 1:29)?
Jesus suffered, leaving us an example, so that we might follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:22). The word example can be used to describe children learning the alphabet by tracing letters. In other words, we are called to “trace Jesus’ steps.” And following Jesus in righteousness inevitably leads to suffering, and possibly, death. What do you do with that? Are you surprised? Discouraged? Angry? Sad? Afraid?
It is disheartening to know we will suffer just for following Jesus. That’s why Peter equips us to endure unjust suffering. He reminds us that as we follow Jesus into suffering, we are not to respond in sin (v. 22). We are not to lash out or threaten our persecutors (v. 23). Instead, we are to trust God—the one who judges justly (v. 23). But how are we to endure suffering as Jesus did? In the power of the gospel (v. 24). Remembering the gospel strengthens us to respond righteously in the face of unjust suffering:
Jesus’ steps led Him to suffer and die on the cross for us—“He bore our sins in his body on the tree…”
Jesus’ death on the cross empowers us to live righteously—“…so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.”
Jesus’ death defeated sin, suffering, and death—“By his wounds you have been healed.”
If we follow Jesus, we will suffer. We have been called to suffer because Jesus suffered, and we are following in His steps. But also, know that Jesus has defeated death. While we may follow Jesus’ steps into suffering and death, we will also follow Jesus’ steps into resurrection. Whatever suffering we may face, no matter how hard it may be, no matter how long it lasts, it is only temporary compared to what awaits us—the eternal weight of glory.
What do you do with unjust suffering? Are you surprised when you suffer for following Jesus? How does meditating on 1 Peter 2:24 help you establish a category for unjust suffering?
How does meditating on Jesus’ death and resurrection empower us to live righteously?
How does knowing that we also follow Jesus into resurrection and glory empower you to endure unjust suffering?
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.