I think I may have found my first theological heroine. Was rootling around the standard commentaries for my first-ever sermon-to-be, and hers was the only one that rose like a harvest moon, illuminating the text before me with the radiance of the Son, himself the radiance of the Father. The depth of thought (casting open a window upon the Greek across the New Testament as well as the Septuagint), breadth of learning (revealing love of all Scripture), length of labour (for why indeed should God look well upon sloth?); the fearlessness, the clarity, the piety … well, enough of the laudation. Let me unveil her like so:
The Christians to whom Peter wrote were suffering because they were living by different priorities, values, and allegiances than their pagan neighbours. These differences were sufficiently visible to cause unbelievers to take note and in some cases to heap abuse on those living out faith in Christ. Are Christians today willing to suffer alienation from our society out of obedience to Christ? If statistics tell the true story, it would seem that most Christians today, even those who call themselves evangelicals, are in some important ways not very distinguishable from unbelievers. We divorce at the same rate. We have the same addictions. We seek the same forms of entertainment. We wear the same fashions. And so on. First Peter challenges Christians to reexamine our acceptance of society’s norms and to be willing to suffer the alienation of being a visiting foreigner in our own culture wherever its values conflict with those of Christ.
Even those Christians who do not suffer persecution for the faith are called to the suffering of self-denial. Sin is often thought of as being motivated by the temptation for pleasure. But perhaps the real power of sin lies in the avoidance of pain and suffering. It is better to suffer unfulfilled needs and desires than to sin. Is this not what self-denial means? Jesus linked self-denial with following in his footsteps when he said, “Those who would be my disciples must deny themselves and take up their cross and folow me” (Mark 8:34 TNIV). For instance, isn’t the temptation to lie often an attempt to save face rather than face the consequences of the truth? Isn’t the temptation to cheat on an exam an unwillingness to suffer the loss of reputation or other consequences that failure might bring? Isn’t sexual sin often the alternative to suffering by living with deep emotional and physical needs unmet? According to Peter, the pain and suffering that self-denial brings is a godly suffering that is better than yielding to sin (1 Peter 4:1–2).
(Karen H. Jobes. 1 Peter. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Eds. Robert W. Yarbrough and Robert H. Stein. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2005. Pages 4–5.)