The apostle Peter had a specific aim in mind as he was writing his letter. He wanted his first readers to be prepared to suffer for their faith. Christ suffered in his work for the kingdom of God. His followers ought to expect to suffer as well.
It is better to be prepared than to be surprised. I think we all would agree with that. Boy Scouts have a motto about that, I think.
The same forces are at work today as were at work in the life of Christ and as were at work at the time Peter wrote his letter. The world and Satan want to bring the work of the gospel to a close. Those who persist in living their lives for Christ ought not to be surprised, then, when the world brings pressure upon them to return to the ways of the world.
For Peter’s earliest readers, it was quite common for whole communities to engage in pagan festivals. Those celebrations often involved all of the sins mentioned in 1 Peter 4:3. New Christians in that era would have to cease from participating in those pagan festivals. They were called to holy living, lives set apart for God.
This is what Peter means, at least in part, when he says a person suffers as he has “ceased from sin” or is “done with sin.” If a person was done with those activities, he or she didn’t show up to the pagan festival. The neighbors might chatter about this. Family members might squawk about it. There could have been economic consequences, or worse.
Peter wanted his readers to be ready. “Arm yourselves with the same way of thinking.” They were to think like Christ and be done with sin – even if it meant suffering as a result.
It seems like we need to be prepared ahead of time for suffering. We need to have the mindset of a person who is willing to suffer. We decide today that when pressured by the world to engage in activities that are not Christlike, we will say “no” – come what may.
I’m not too sure many of us have made decisions like that. The idea of suffering for our faith remains theoretical, and we may not believe we truly will suffer – especially not like many Christians throughout history and in other parts of the world today. And we may not suffer like that.
But having the mindset of willing sufferers for Christ can have its own power in our lives. There are times, quite simply, when we need to speak the good news about Jesus Christ, when we need to give the reason for the hope that we have.
If we already have come to terms in our minds with the fact that some people will give us a negative and perhaps hateful reaction – and who might want us to suffer socially or emotionally for our beliefs – then we may be all the more bold.
Think on these things today. Do you have “the same way of thinking” as Christ?
P.S. Not long after I finished this blog post, I read this story. Try to read it all the way to the end. This is good food for thought as you consider the message of 1 Peter.