When the Apostle Peter said Christians should expect to be slandered and mistreated as evildoers, it’s because it was literally true for Christians in Peter’s day.
The early Roman world did not understand Christians and felt threatened by them, and so they made up lies about them. They thought Christians were superstitious (because they believed in miracles), called them atheists (they denied Roman gods) and incestuous (they were marrying their “brothers and sisters”), even that they were cannibals (they were eating “flesh” and drinking “blood” together).
Christians were the preferred scapegoats for societal problems. When Nero burnt Rome and the Visigoths attacked the city, both blamed the Christians.
“For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps …. when he was insulted, he did not insult in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree; so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness. ‘By his wounds you have been healed.’”
–1 Peter 2:21–24 CSB
You, as a Christian, should expect to be slandered today, too. This is what they did to Jesus, and he showed us how we should respond.
What did Christ do when he experienced opposition?
1. Jesus was patient.
We need to get rid of the idea that if we live right, nothing bad will ever happen to us, no lies will ever be told about us, vindication will always come quickly come, and good guys ultimately win in every situation. It didn’t happen that way with Jesus. If we think living rightly ensures we will avoid injustice and suffering, then we need to check which Savior we are following. Jesus suffered unjustly and left an example that we would follow in his steps.
2. Jesus committed himself to “him who judges justly.”
He waited for vindication from his Heavenly Father and for reward in his heavenly country. If he never got vindication or reward here, that was okay. He was a stranger and exile, and his real home was heaven, so he waited for that.
3. Jesus kept doing good even when he was being slandered.
He kept doing miracles. He kept forgiving people, even when they were nailing him to the cross. He took the long view of vindication, letting his good works speak for themselves. Peter says that is what we must do also: Keep doing good works, and let them vindicate you.
What will silence the accusers in your life? Not your social media posts. Your good works. We need to stop complaining that evangelicals are treated unfairly by the media and start taking care of the orphans in our communities. When the foster services have no more kids to place and we’re the only people at the table, let that change everyone’s perspective. We must stop trying to argue that Christians aren’t racists and invite into our lives people who don’t look like us, to feel their pain and carry their burdens like we would our own.
As Pastor Craig Groeschel says, the more we display the gospel, the more we’ll have opportunity to declare the gospel.
4. Jesus’ patient suffering under injustice was the means by which he saved us.
Peter quotes Isaiah prophesying, “By his wounds he will heal us.” Jesus’ wounds were not some byproduct of our salvation; they were the very means by which he purchased our salvation. And, in some mysterious way, just as Jesus purchased salvation for the world through his wounds, so we will extend that salvation through ours.
Paul said the same thing: “I am completing in my flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Colossians 1:24). How could anything be lacking in the wounds of Christ? Didn’t Jesus say, “It is finished”?
The work of salvation is finished, but what is not finished is people hearing about the offer of salvation—and salvation is not complete until people hear the message and respond. People have to hear the message and believe it in order to be saved by it. And, Peter and Paul say, it is by our wounds and how we respond to them that people will best hear and believe.
As we endure with hope, as we forgive those who treat us wrongly, as we love those who don’t love us or treat us rightly, the world sees the truth about the gospel and learns about Jesus.
God might be calling you to respond like Christ to some wound you are enduring right now. Is there someone you are supposed to respond to with goodness, like Christ did, to put the gospel on display? Is there somewhere you need to put away your desire for vindication and vengeance, commit that to God, and just love that person like Christ loved you?
The way we respond to suffering says something about the God we follow. Maybe God, in your suffering, is trying to tell a story through you—a story that’s not about you but is more important than you. Your story can’t save anybody, but Jesus’ can. There is no greater honor than to have your story contribute to his.