Timeless Truth for Young Believers: To Sin or to Suffer?

Since most reading this page are not in any physical danger as a result of being a Christian, there is a possibility of thinking that your faith is actually well accepted in the world; that living as a Christian is a normal thing in our society; that there isn’t, or need not be, any great difference between you and an unbelieving culture around you; that being a Christian, therefore, is fairly easy. But the Bible never gives us the impression that being a Christian is supposed to be easy. Repeatedly, we are told it will involve suffering.

God says that Christ bore our sins not merely to rescue us from hell, but “that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1Peter 2:24, ESV). By living righteously, you are guaranteed to be going against the flow of “what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry” (1Peter 4:3, ESV). Righteousness is not what the world wants. In fact, they don’t want you to want it either. Your living righteously is an implicit condemnation of their sinful behavior. Because of your refusal to “join them in the same flood of debauchery … they malign you” (1Peter 4:4, ESV). If you stick to righteousness, at times, they will mock you, sneer at you, criticize you, exclude you, misunderstand you, be angry at you, and try to shame you. Are you willing to suffer for righteousness’ sake?

Suffering is not something we get excited about. We naturally try to avoid it. And in the situation above, where there is a threat of being maligned for not joining them in the party scene and their “do whatever makes you feel good now” attitude, there is an easy way out of the suffering: join them in their sin. But what seems on the surface to be the easy way out, will bring grief and tears. Be clear on these two things: their way of living is indeed sinful, and sometimes, your only choice is to sin or to suffer. “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking” (1Peter 4:1, ESV). Be like Christ.

Peter tells us near the end of his first epistle that he is writing about grace. His letter shows (like Titus 2:11-14) that God’s grace guarantees your future salvation, but presently leads to holiness and righteousness, which in turn, will sometimes produce suffering. “This is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it” (1Peter 5:12, ESV). When your commitment to the will of God causes others to look down on you or to mock you, remember they are going to have to meet God one day and be judged for their sins. You always want to choose righteousness over sin, even when it involves suffering, knowing it will bring you blessing from God. “Rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1Peter 4:13-14, ESV).