Some American Christians worry that we are being persecuted and that our freedom of religion is being infringed. That’s always true to some extent – and the idea is scary.

How did Jesus deal with it?

Jesus practiced non-violent non-cooperation toward evil persons. The results of his courage were both short-term and long-term, mostly good, some brutally bad.

Jesus’ immediate followers – the Christians of the first century, also faced lots of suffering.

  • They suffered government harassment, even arrest and execution.
  • They suffered from neighbors and fellow-citizens – the insulting or aggressive behavior of others around them in society.
  • They suffered all the normal pains and sorrows of human life, of which there are many.
  • They wrote about such tensions and how to think about and deal with them.
  • And their numbers grew as people were attracted to their concrete love and obvious sincerity.

Peter wrote, for example, about “fiery trials” – being accused unjustly, suffering horribly in spite of being good people. That’s happening to many in our world today, for many different reasons.

The crucial thing here is to learn what approach WE should take when developments in the world around seem to threaten us in particular. And Peter gives specific, unambiguous guidance.

As Christians we must take seriously his advice since we will face “normal” difficulties just like everybody else. And sometimes there will be actual persecution for our faith. (The Bible also strongly emphasizes how to respond when OTHER people are being mistreated – a subject for another article.)

REALISTIC ADVICE FOR LIVING IN SCARY TIMES (1 Peter 4:7-11)

However severe it is,
even if “the end of all things is near” as Peter says,
live in grace ANYway –
practice simple, straightforward Christian living –
THAT’s what he urges on them.

If we think that our current situation demands some other political or legal or military strategy – we’d best be sure we’re fully implementing THIS Biblical and apostolic strategy first – don’t you think?

A. Be Thoughtful.

The temptation under threat is to panic. Or to freeze up. To lash out. To hide. Or to let our thoughts race like crazy. To jump to conclusions – maybe about what’s going to happen, maybe about what we’d better do fast! Or to strike back verbally, physically, or with the arm of government.

But Peter says, first, to settle down and start thinking realistically. “Be clear-minded and self-controlled.” Even that can be frightening – but he clearly says to do it. Good thing to work on.

B. Pray

The most crucial “secret” to effective prayer is honesty. Healthy humility doesn’t hurt either. And a crucial ingredient of both honesty and humility is thoughtfulness, or awareness. So he says, “The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled so you can pray.”

Ahh, so we should pray – thoughtfully, honestly!

Settle down, think, and bring those thoughts, concerns, fears, ideas and hopes all fully and explicitly into the presence of the Lord in prayer. The testimony of history – of those who have actually worked on prayer – is that it is well worth the time and effort. Pray. Good thing to work on.

C. Love. Deeply.

Well look! It’s the second of Jesus’ two greatest commandments! “Love you neighbor as yourself.” Are we surprised that Peter asks Christians under stress to continue to practice their faith?

Great Commandment #1: Love God – and think honestly so you can come to God in effective prayer.

Great Commandment #2: Love your neighbors. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” “Above all!” Good thing to work on.

D. Practice Hospitality

This is not about coffee and donuts. It’s about welcoming people – even strangers.

The Greek word used here is sort of the opposite of “philadelphia”, which means “love of brothers.” This one’s built of two words that mean “love of strangers.” That’s a major Biblical theme – loving foreigners, strangers, aliens, people who are not us and not just like us. It’s about extending that love into practical welcome, practical service, practical cooperation. That’s the kind of thing Peter thinks we should be doing when we’re afraid. Awesome Christian morality! And “without grumbling!” A good thing to work on.

E. Serve Others with Your Abilities, Whatever They Are

“The end of all things is near, therefore… each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others.” Our individual abilities or experiences are gifts of God and he intends us to use them to the benefit of others around us.

Eyes up, off the ground, off our fears about ourselves and our anger, outward to the needs of those around.

This requires a certain thoughtfulness – to be aware of two things: 1) what the needs really are, and 2) what the ways are in which we each might particularly be able to help.

Yet another good thing to work on.

So – here’s what he tells us:

I Peter 4:7-11

The end of all things is near.

  1. Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled
  2. so that you can pray.
  3. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
  4. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
  5. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.

SUMMARY

1 Peter 4:19

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

Peter makes clear that THIS is the way Christ will in fact be worshiped and God honored.

. . . so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.

We Christians must do what Christ asks of us, and this is what He is asking. Peter says a few sentences later, “This is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.”

Featured Articles

Religion Running Government, Theocracy, We would regret it

Theocracy (Religion Runs the Government) – We Would Deeply Regret It

I am a church person, a person of faith. But I don't think we need a government that rules as if it were the voice of God. This nation's Constitution was written partly in order to help us avoid theocracy. Unfortunately there are Americans today who clearly think the...
Read More

The Civilized Are Responsible

Originally published in 1976. My how times have not changed. The civilized have created the wretched, quite coldly and deliberately, and do not intend to change the status quo; are responsible for their slaughter and enslavement; rain down bombs on defenseless...
Read More
Neighbor

If You Do Not Love Your Neighbor Whom You CAN See – Can You Love God?

The author of "1 John" makes a simple, blunt, very logical analysis of our emotional attachments - or professed attachments. (1 John 4:20) If you do not love your brother whom you can see, how can you love God whom you cannot see? Well, John, that's easy! We do it all...
Read More
Moral economic behavior stressed by Isaiah

Are Economic Matters a Moral Issue? Isaiah Thinks So.

In spite of Isaiah, and other Bible sources, we’ve all heard this - something like: I. It is NOT the government’s place to interfere in economic matters - tell people how they should spend their money or how they should treat their employees. That warps economic...
Read More

The Moral Priorities of Jesus – What Did Jesus Teach?

He said, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord' but do not do what I say?" Maybe he meant it. This short book (40 pages) is available as a free pdf, or as a paperback at LULU.com (see the links below). It treats the following issues.  Here, each chapter title is followed by...
Read More
hand writes with a pen in a notebook

The Quiet Places in Our Lives Make Our Public Activity Safer

Contemplation and Public Action The public good is most in danger when the voluntary visits to contemplation are neglected in favor of immediate communitarian action. We don't have to go off and become full-time contemplatives. But times of stepping aside from the...
Read More
Threat leads to assault. Hate leads to violence.

Hitler Defended Christian Morality and Family Values

Current prominent figures, speaking words the "Christian Right" wants to hear, are not the first national leaders to use Christian morality as a rallying cry. These words are from 1933: "The National Government will preserve and defend those basic principles on which...
Read More
Karol Wojtyla, John Paul II

John Paul II: Private Prayer and the Dangers of Public Life

Connie and I recently watched Karol: A Man Who Became Pope. It portrays Karol Wojtyla's life from his late teens, when the Nazi's invaded his city and nation, through WWII, then through decades of Communist rule (as a satellite of the Soviet Union), up to the day he...
Read More
Gun on Bible

Christians Should Not Enforce the Bible.

Here's another example of the misunderstanding and misuse of Scripture by the 'religious right'.  This was quoted to me to show that no Christian could ever vote for Democrats. "Don't you realize that if even one person is allowed to go on sinning, soon all will be...
Read More

German Christians Sold Out to Power and Glory

[A Review of Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, by Charles Marsh, 2014] This book is not written to coddle nor to discomfort whatever our self-image is as American Christians today; Marsh is trying to show reality. To me, two eras of Bonhoeffer's life seem...
Read More
100 quotes

100 Quotes

Nerd alert! This is a list that used to be behind the quote widget on the upper right of the page. They are from various places, maybe half from my personal reading (books). I'm not documenting sources because I don't have time or did not record them. There's good...
Read More

On War – and Its Effects on Humans

Quotes from the e-newsletter I get from Information Clearing House. ... the United States, for generations, has sustained two parallel but opposed states of mind about military atrocities and human rights: one of U.S. benevolence, generally held by the public, and the...
Read More
brick-layer at work

The Kingdom of God. God’s New Economy. We Are Called To Do It.

"Over and against these senseless modern myths ... there is the "myth" of the God of goodness who has chosen people to prepare a kingdom of justice, truth, and love on earth. This myth dies hard. Why should we refuse to admit that Christ taught it to us?" [from Andre...
Read More

Is Jesus’ Style “Judge Thy Neighbor”? Is That Jesus’ New Commandment?

Jesus was a highly respected teacher of morality and of the spiritual life. So, logically enough, a man asked him to take a stand on a moral issue between the man and his brother (Luke 12:13-15) - Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide...
Read More

Why Many Christians Do Not Vote Republican

This was written about 12 years ago (as of today, in February 2017). Wow. And the problems remain, and have grown; which means these things still need thinking and talking about. References and Bible quotations...
Read More
Jesus - What Does He Want?

Why I Pay Attention to Jesus Christ

WHY? Why should we focus any more on Jesus Christ than on Abraham or Moses or Isaiah? Or on the laws in the Bible, or prophecy, or the end of the world? Is focus on Jesus more needed than pointing out sins – especially other people’s sins? Is Christ actually more...
Read More

Prophets MUST Improvise, In and For Our Cities.

The prophet’s task is to “reorder” and “refashion” the urban environment to be more just and peaceable. Yet ... the work of social transformation must be based on a deep inner transformation. That's the burden of this excellent book (quote from p97). Resurrection City...
Read More

Two Types of Religion – Authority, Love

Sometimes I feel there are obviously two primary modes for religious practice in this world. That amazement is the opposite of complacency and self-satisfaction. And that gentleness is very different from constant critique and...
Read More
fish racism

Jesus and Racism – Samaritan Lives Matter – Black Lives Matter

Samaritans in Jesus' day were both religiously and racially despised. The phrase "Samaritan lives matter" would have been very offensive to the Jewish culture in which Jesus was raised and in which he was a teacher and doer of good. But to Jesus, clearly Samaritan...
Read More

"THIS IS HOW they made the pleasant land desolate."

The Bible fairly often makes a direct connection between the desolation of a land (and its people - and, obviously, its economic life) and moral corruption in the people's prior social, legal, and economic patterns. Here's an example from Zechariah 7. The residents...
Read More
Jesus - What Does He Want?

Is Trump a Christian? How Could We Tell?

There was some excitement among certain Republican Christians when Dobson said Trump had become a "baby" Christian and should be cut some slack on that basis. Two problems with that: A novice at practicing the Christian faith is not someone we should automatically...
Read More

Turn the Other Cheek – means Resist Them NonViolently

I. THE PROBLEM: Jesus says to turn the other cheek. [See a summary of this post.] Is it ever appropriate for Christians to resist authority? Many of us feel there is much in the behavior of our national leaders that cries out for criticism and resistance. Are...
Read More