We live in a day when the world at large is captivated by the philosophy of Hollywood. By this I mean that success is defined by personal achievement and popularity with an audience. In this world you are doing good if people like you. Popular opinion sets you up for fame and fortune. The downside to this is that if people don’t like you, then your chances are slim to none. Even worse is when those who are succeeding allow something from their private life to become public. Any “skeleton” hanging around in a closet can put you away for good. This is not only true for the entertainment world, but for all spheres of culture. Politicians, business leaders, schoolteachers, and even church leaders make the daily headlines characterized as people who were once adored but have now blown it. One little mistake and the media will begin their war campaign of persecution, so as to divide and conquer public opinion. What a crazy world we live in.

What about Christians? What does the bible have to say about how believers are to respond to public opinion? Are Christians to be lured by the lust of popularity, or are they to use it to their advantage? The Apostle Peter wrote a fascinating letter to a group of people who were experiencing this sort of dilemma. They were not actors and actresses, or singers and performers, nor were they Democrats and Republicans. No, they were just followers of Christ. They were Christians. At the time of Peter’s writing, Christianity was not so popular. In fact, the church was being persecuted, and Christians were suffering. Near the end of the letter Peter offers up these words: “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler. But if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in his name” (1 Pet. 4:14-16close1 Peter 4:14-16 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. (ESV) close1 Peter 4:14-16close1 Peter 4:14-16 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. (ESV) 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. (ESV) ).

Peter says that we should not be concerned with public opinion. As Christians we serve God, not popular culture. If we experience suffering we should consider ourselves fortunate. We are blessed. It is an honor to be slandered for being a follower of Jesus. Peter says we are not to be ashamed. We are not to walk with our head down but rather with joy knowing that God is being honored. We must be cautious, however, not to suffer because of our own sin. Peter qualifies this suffering as external, that which is brought upon us from the outside. Christians must guard their moral integrity and live above reproach. Any suffering that is caused from our own sin is not the suffering that brings God’s blessing.

How then does suffering come into our lives? I believe in two ways. First, what Peter teaches in his letter is that those who live righteously will be tested through persecution. The world will always be critical of Christians because of their practice of biblical ethics and morality. The philosophy of the world opposes that which Christ teaches. When persecution arises, believers must, as Peter instructed, see it as part of their testing (1 Pet. 4:12close1 Peter 4:12 Suffering as a Christian 12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (ESV) close1 Peter 4:12close1 Peter 4:12 Suffering as a Christian 12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (ESV) Suffering as a Christian 12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (ESV) ). Secondly, suffering from the outside, or persecution, arises from the preaching of the gospel, or evangelism. The world despises Christ. When we preach him faithfully there will be critics. Just the other day I was speaking with a person who expressed concern for the soul of his neighbor. He openly admitted that it was on his heart to share the gospel. He then acknowledged that it was likely that his neighbor would get angry or upset with him.

The preaching of the gospel infuriates much of the lost world, since it invades the privacy of the human heart. The Word as a two-edged sword exposes the condition of hearts and causes many to become uncomfortable. Testifying about Jesus Christ and his work on the cross brings conflict. We must remember, however, that this suffering is a blessing and not a curse. We must live holy and preach Christ crucified, and then rest assured that God would be glorified through our suffering.

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