Reading: 1 Peter 4:12-14 and 5:6-11
Verse Nine: Resist him [Satan], standing firm in the faith.
Suffering is the overarching theme in today’s passage. Peter opens by reminding us that we may suffer for our faith. He says, “do not be surprised” and encourages us to “rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ”. To really suffer for our faith is foreign to us, isn’t it? To rejoice because we are suffering for our faith seems even more foreign! Yet over the course of our faith journey, most of us can look back and see times when holding fast to our faith led to some decisions and choices that had a ‘cost’ and came with some suffering. Maybe it was a relationship that you had to let go or a work decision that kept your integrity but cost a promotion or a windfall in your bank account. This is the type of suffering that most Christians we know suffer. But the reality is that there is much pain and suffering just beyond the doors of our beautiful churches and just down the street from our nice neighborhoods.
Every community, big or small, has its share of suffering. When Jesus said that we would always have the poor with us, He knew we would. We find suffering clustered here and there. In my town it is called “housing” and in all communities there is a similar neighborhood. The housing conditions are poor, people go without heat and/or electricity for stretches, and food is sometimes scarce. In larger communities there are also homeless shelters, safe houses, and halfway houses. In big communities there are the “projects” and in some huge cities whole communities are built out of cardboard and scrap metal and there is no running water or electricity. Go to this place in your community and you will see that there is pain and suffering, there is hurt, and there is a loss of hope.
Our call as Christians is clear: go. Go! Go and do what you can when you can. Alone you and I cannot end the suffering… But we can alleviate some and lessen some. We can bring food and clothing and whatever else material is needed. We can bring food and sometimes clean water. We can fix a leaky roof, a broken window, or a creaky set of steps. We can sit and hear someone’s story and offer some words of hope. We can also work to address some of the root causes and systematic forces that cause the pain and suffering. This can be through education, through voicing opposition to the systems that work against those in poverty, and through fighting things like prejudice and stereotyping and judging. This day and every day may we “Resist him [Satan], standing firm in the faith”. Evil comes in many forms. Today may we resist all forms if evil and suffering as we seek to bring the hope and love of Christ to a world in need.