READ: Song of Solomon 7, John 14, 1 Peter 3
ON THE CONTRARY, BLESSING
While a “nose like the tower of Lebanon” might have sounded attractive to the ancient Hebrews (Song. 7:4), holy women who trusted God adorned themselves a different way (1 Peter 3:5). Peter points out that incorruptible beauty is that of a gentle and quiet Spirit (v. 4). Spirit beauty is very precious in the sight of God. Peter details what kind of spirit we should have when we are being reviled and persecuted. We should not “return evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing knowing that you were called to this” (v. 9). When we suffer for righteousness sake with a beautiful spirit (v. 14), we are blessed. In fact we join with the divine long-suffering (v. 20). To suffer and maintain a gentle spirit is to be blessed; by doing so we suffer as Jesus did and partake of the divine nature. Yet not every Christian suffers well. The call to mission includes the call to suffering and the call to suffering includes the call to suffer well. Suffering is not mechanically salvific, nor does the follower of Jesus automatically suffer well. Suffering makes some bitter and others better. There is nothing as beautiful as the Christian who suffers well, and there is nothing as disappointing and shameful as the Christian who suffers poorly. In the days to come, more and more followers of Jesus are going to suffer in frontier mission. It would be a tragic and painful waste if collectively we suffer poorly.
Our suffering should sing. Paul and Silas sat in jail and lifted their voice in praise. The Scripture does not indicate they were interceding for escape, nor does it imply they were strategizing or pleading for the soul of the jailer. Paul and Silas’ spirits magnified the Lord and lifted up His name. Release, witness, and conversion were the result of their suffering well–not necessarily the prime intention. When God is the center of our affections in affliction, attending benefits manifest. When God is the center of suffering, suffering makes us beautiful. When we fix our eyes on Jesus (and on not why we suffer, how long we will suffer, who is making us suffer, etc.), then suffering is redemptive. All too often Christians fall prey to the devil’s twist on suffering: we put ourselves at the center, either in self pity or self-glorification, and both of those perspectives make us ugly. Our suffering is not about us and it is not about our persecutors. Our suffering is about the glory of Jesus, and only when we suffer with grace and gentleness, does Jesus receive the glory He deserves. The more they beat us, the more gentle we should become. The more they slander us, the more we should smile. The longer they hold us, the more thankful and sweet we should be and with gracious long-suffering treat them. Grace and gentleness as a response to injustice both infuriate and incapacitate evil. What can the wicked do to the person who places Jesus at the center of suffering? Either fall on their knees to join us in worship or fail miserably in their demonic task. Please, Lord, let it be the former.