Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Power Perfected in Weakness

"To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps" (1 Peter 2:21)

If it is occasionally painful for citizens to submit to the powers that be, it is often constantly painful for servants and employees to submit to their masters. In 1 Peter 2:18–24, Peter advances his discussion of Christian power by addressing those who are slaves and those who suffer at the hands of other people.

It is a paradox of the kingdom that those who serve humbly are those with great power. Beyond this, it is those who suffer unjustly who have the greatest power. It is possible to understand this kind of power and influence at the human level, at least to some extent. We read in Genesis 39:2–6 that Potiphar was so impressed with Joseph’s humble service that he put Joseph in charge of everything. Joseph wound up possessing the true day-to-day power in the household (a point not lost on Potiphar’s wife). Yet, when Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph, it turned out that Potiphar still had the final power. Potiphar had the power to remove Joseph from his position of subordinate power.

Also, history is full of examples of people who attained great power and influence by suffering or even dying as martyrs. Martyrs have virtually toppled kings from their thrones. The story of Thomas à Becket is a good example of this. The king had Archbishop Becket slain because the king wanted to control the church in England, but Becket’s martyrdom guaranteed that the English kings would not be able even to lift a finger against the church for centuries to come.

Yet we cannot fully understand the paradox of power if we look only at the human level. The Bible tells us that it was God who raised Jesus, the most humble servant and the greatest martyr, and enthroned Him. It may be that we will serve humbly and never, ever see any benefit from it in this life. We must believe by faith that God sees it all and that God will reward it. God will reward us in the world to come. But God will reward us in the sense that our humility and suffering serve in mysterious ways to advance His kingdom on earth. The “joy set before us” in the midst of suffering is both individual (rewards in heaven) and corporate (the advance of the kingdom on earth).

Peter writes that we are “called” to suffer unjustly, to be blamed for things we did not do. Often pastors and elders are blamed for things they did not do. Those doing the blaming are often those whom the pastor was trying to help. When you see a Christian brother accused, remember what this passage says, and don’t jump to conclusions.