Our passage today was written in the context of suffering. The other night I was in the hospital room of a friend from church to pray with them and encourage them in a hard time. This person commented on the encouragement, not only of the staff, but the Connect Group as well. It just happened to be in the middle of Connect Group sign ups and I said, “You know, we fight, claw, and beg to get people into small groups, and what it seems that they don’t realize is that this right here is what it’s all about.”
When life is going well, you can make it on your own—or at least it seems that way. But God’s Church is not for Lone Rangers. As we remind our daughters constantly, independence is not the goal, our goal should be interdependence. This is where we can depend on one another. For sure, we don’t claim to be perfect at this. But, this is the reason for Peter’s encouragement in our passage today. We not only seek community to share good times with, we need community to be there through suffering—the suffering caused by those outside the Church, and suffering from the natural part of sin in the world, suffering from sickness and death.
What does it look like to suffer well in community? It starts with unity of mind. If you were in at East campus yesterday, we talked a lot about this. Unity, and especially how we maintain unity through suffering, proclaims Christ. It teaches the world about who He is. Church unity is a major theme of the New Testament (when to pursue unity and when to break it).
Suffering in community also requires “sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” All these things amount to mentally putting yourself in the shoes of another person. Suffering well in community means coming alongside another person. You can’t encourage from a distance; you must embrace the muck and be willing to get hurt to love people.
When you are slandered or hurt by others, Peter says, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” To be a light you must shine in darkness. Doing this you risk emotional and maybe physical safety, but that’s why we do this in the context of community. (Basically, this is exactly what the last sermon series was all about.)
Peter goes on to quote Psalm 34:12–16. The Lord loves the righteous and will punish those who do evil. When we suffer, and especially when we suffer at the hands of others, we can trust a good God that will right every wrong and reward those who have suffered for good.
Let this be an encouragement for those in trying times. Also, if you’re missing out on community, let us help you get involved. Finally, as we step out to shine the light of the Gospel to a dark world, let us do so together—no lone warriors.
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate