“1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live forthe rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” 1 Peter 4:1-2 (ESV)
Righteousness & Suffering
It is the will of God that we be done with sin. It is God’s will that all men and women live the lives they have been given according to God’s style. That style can be summarized by the word: righteousness. That style is not natural. The style that is natural is unfortunately its opposite: unrighteousness. The shape of that style is in verse 3 and in verse 2 Peter calls them passions for men and women live passionately toward those things. They could be called desires because women and men desire them, they want them.
An odd statement is made by Peter in verse one. He encourages people to think like Christ. No worries there, but he suggests people should think like Christ because Christ suffered physically. What? How are those connected? It does not seem natural. He answers it in the last part of that same verse. The person who has suffered physically for the faith is done with rebellion, a.k.a sin.
A marker of excellence
That probably makes some sense, but we can twist it and begin considering suffering as a surrogate, an equivalency, for righteousness. That is not the point. Suffering is not meritorious in and of itself so people are not supposed to go looking for it (though there are those who inflict it upon themselves as if it were so). The proper way to view this: suffering is a marker of the Christ-like viewpoint. It is the evidence of the thing not seen: the heart style, the new life, the old being gone, the aims as they now stand.
Some have appropriately connected the concept of faith with the wind. The wind is not seen, but its effect is. The trees sway, the coolness on your skin is noted, the leaves on the sidewalk skitter along. Well suffering for doing good can and should be placed in that same category. Don’t aim for it, but don’t be surprised by it either.
A strange way of putting this is in the middle of verse 1. It is as though Peter puts a military twist upon it. Peter uses the word arm in a manner that would suggest it is a weapon. What is to be used as a weapon so to speak? The mindset or attitude or way of thinking. By this he means that one can turn suffering for Christ on its head. One can turn the tables on suffering by recognizing that it really implies one’s heart is on the right track. So rather than be downtrodden by it one should use it to cheer the soul for what it says. Such a person has crossed a line in the sand. Such a person having made choices that put one’s comfort aside in exchange for godliness has ceased the damaging things.
What do you live for?
In verse 2 the result is carried out to the next level. Life going forward is not done to engage the humanistic hungers. Those passions blow people along like leaves on the sidewalk. It is good for leaves to blow, but it is not good for people to. People need to stand firm on the foundation of God. The will of God is righteousness. The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous as Peter quoted from David in I Peter 3.
Some key concepts for these two verses:
- Turning the tables on suffering
- Steeling the heart against suffering
- Righteousness is God’s style
- Suffering does not get you “points” with God.
- Suffering as a marker for godliness
- Don’t be blown and tossed by suffering
- Stand firm on the principles one was created for: righteous living