Saturday, 2 November 2019
For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. 1 Peter 2:20
It was just noted by Peter that it is commendable for suffering wrongly if it is done with a good conscience towards God. He now asks an opposing thought to get his audience to think through why this is so, beginning with, “For what credit is it…?” The word translated as “credit” is found nowhere else in the Bible. It is akin to a word which signifies being called by name. Thus, an appropriate translation would be, “For what praise is it…?”
It is as if he is focusing on those who would claim such a thing. If a person of a minority race, religion, or culture, in a given society, was to be punished for doing something wrong – we’ll say attacking people with a knife, or maybe killing his sister because she “dishonored” the family name, or something similar – and then he claimed that he was suffering because of racial or religious persecution, rather than for the actual wrong he had done, then he would be such a ridiculous fool.
And so Peter continues, “when you are beaten for your faults.” The person is rightly punished for the wrong he has done. Understanding that, Peter then says, “if … you take it patiently?” The person is obviously a criminal. He has done wrong. And yet he calls out during his punishment, “I am receiving this as persecution for my religion, and so I accept the punishment for the honor of it.” Those who hear, and who aren’t ridiculously dull, would laugh at him. He is a criminal, and he is rightly deserving of what he got. Such a thing is what Isaiah referred to –
“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” Isaiah 5:20
It is perverse and illogical to claim that something which is obviously wrong is good and noble. However, and in contrast to that notion, Peter then says, “But when you do good and suffer.” This is completely the opposite scenario. A person goes as a missionary to another country to spread the gospel. Or maybe the person stands on the corner of the street and reads the Bible, proclaiming salvation through Christ, or any other such good and reasonable action which is meant to help others, be productive in society, establish right morals, and etc. In doing such a thing, Peter says that “if you take it patiently.”
While having done nothing wrong, the individual is being persecuted, punished, imprisoned, or whatever, and yet he takes his suffering patiently. In such a case, Peter notes again (as in verse 19) that “this is commendable.” And it is not just commendable in and of itself, but it is so “before God.”
God is witness to the act, because it was right, good, and honorable. And in his seeing it, He notes that what has been done is proper.
Life application: If you are punished for doing something wrong and you take your punishment patiently, what credit is there in that? In fact, it is not only something that should be done, but if it is not done there is bound to be more punishment. No one likes a whiner and to fight back over just punishment shows a person that needs more of it. Peter contrasts this, however, with the one who suffers patiently when the punishment is undeserved.
On the other hand, if a missionary who is proclaiming salvation through Christ fights back, what will be the result? It will be more conflict and an even greater animosity towards the gospel. But, if the missionary suffers after having done no wrong and accepts the unjust punishment, what will be the response? As has so often been the case in the history of the church, the gospel wins over because of such patient suffering. The exact opposite of what is expected occurs.
Let us then consider the epitome of unjust suffering as contrasted to just suffering and remember what occurred –
The criminal on the cross next to Jesus realized that He was being crucified even though He was innocent. In return, the world has become a vastly different place – light shines in the darkness and many souls that would otherwise have been eternally condemned will now stand in the presence of God without fear. Hallelujah to the Lamb of God!
Lord God, Jesus suffered patiently when no punishment was due. He became an example to each of us that we too can endure through unjust punishment. And so, give us that ability as well; give us the ability to bear up under unjust punishment and to bless, not revile, our false accusers. And through this, may You be glorified. Praises to You, O God. Amen.