…it might not be what you think!
Last weekend, I led a breakout session at a women’s weekend conference. The first point from my session is available here: Holding on to Joy During Difficult Times. In this post I am sharing the second point of that session.
We often equate our purpose with a calling to an area of ministry or service, one that we are uniquely suited to do…where we can find satisfaction, feel we are making a difference and serving God.
Several years ago a USA Today poll asked the question, “If you could come face-to-face with God what would you ask?” Would it surprise you to learn the answers most often were: Why was I created? What should I do with my life?
In Peter’s first letter he wrote to Christians who were suffering various trials. He knew they needed to be reminded of the purpose of their calling in order stand firm through the fiery ordeal in which they might find themselves.
Called to follow in Christ’s steps
Following in Christ’s steps brings to mind loving (John 13:35) and accepting (Romans 15:7) of one another as He has us. Or His example of service through washing the disciples’ feet (John 13:15) and the compassion He had on the sick and hungry crowds (Mark 8:2). In this letter, Peter has a different purpose in mind, one that we might not be so willing to embrace.
For what credit is it if you sin and are mistreated and endure it? But if you do good and suffer and so endure, this finds favor with God. For to this you were called, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving an example for you to follow in his steps. He committed no sin nor was deceit found in his mouth. When he was maligned, he did not answer back; when he suffered, he threatened no retaliation, but committed himself to God who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we may cease from sinning and live for righteousness. 1 Peter 2:20-24 net
Okay, so is Peter saying our calling is to do good, even if we should suffer for it? Christ gives us an example of how to suffer well. He did not lash back or respond with anger, but trusted God to judge. It is because of Jesus’ willingness to suffer and die for us that we can fulfill our purpose of living for the righteousness of God.
Called to give a blessing
Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing. 1 Peter 3:8-9 nlt
I get that we are to treat one another with sympathy and love, even being humble. But really are we called to pay back evil and insults by giving a blessing?! To give a blessing means to speak well of someone. How do I speak well of someone who just insulted me or spoke evil against me?? It is only possible by following Jesus’ instruction to love, do good and pray for them (Luke 6:27-28). When our heart is right before God, we can give the blessing God has called us to give.
Peter knew how difficult this would be, so he quoted Psalm 34:12-16 as a reminder of the Lord’s response to those who do right and those who do evil.
For the Scriptures say,
“If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days,
keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies.
Turn away from evil and do good.
Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers.
But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:10-12 nlt
Purpose Living for the Will of God
Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 1 Peter 4:1-2 nas
We are to armourselves with the same purpose of Christ. So what was His purpose? Peter points out that Christ suffered and died for our sins so that He might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). Our living for the will of God, may bring suffering but by it people by can led ultimately to honor God.
Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world. 1 Peter 2:12 nlt
“Of course, the human tendency is to fight back and to demand our rights. But that is the natural response of the unsaved person, and we must do much more than they do. Anybody can fight back; it takes a Spirit-filled Christian to submit and let God fight his battles.” Warren W. Wiersbe
We must remember the purpose of our calling is to follow the example of Christ even as it relates to suffering, to give blessings in response to evil and insults, and live not for ourselves but for the will of God.