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This powerful painting by artist Jani Freimann is titled “Persecution.”[1] Take a moment to view and think about it.

Like me, you probably took in the stance of the person in the foreground, the faces of the figures behind, the colors, the ‘bleeding’ effect, and more. What do you understand and feel from this painting?

Freimann describes this piece as “personifying persecution in the form of gossip, mocking, anger and skepticism. … I wanted to personify the type of persecution that we see here in the United States [and the Western world generally].”

Of course, persecution goes beyond this. As we saw last week it includes derision, exclusion, imprisonment, beatings, even death. As we identify more-and-more with Jesus we can expect to be treated more-and-more like Jesus. Jesus himself says it: “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours” (John 15:20).

What do you understand from these Bible verses (NLT)?

  • “I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church.” (Colossians 1:24)
  • “And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God's glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.” (Romans 8:17-18)
  • “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!” (Philippians 3:10-11)
  • “Dear friends, don't be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad – for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world. So be happy when you are insulted for being a Christian, for then the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you.” (1 Peter 4:12-14)


Reflection: What do these texts have in common? What is my reaction to these words (e.g., confusion, disbelief, fear, hope)? What are the ‘sufferings of Christ’? What does it mean to share or participate in the ‘sufferings of Christ’? What does this mean for my life?



As I stated last week, like most Christians in the West, I lack experience of intense or physical persecution and suffering.


Ajith Fernando is a follower of Jesus from Sri Lanka. He writes:

"I think one of the most serious theological blind spots in the western church is a defective understanding of suffering. There seems to be a lot of reflection on how to avoid suffering and on what to do when we hurt. We have a lot of teaching about escape from and therapy for suffering, but there is inadequate teaching about the theology of suffering. Christians are not taught why they should expect suffering as followers of Christ and why suffering is so important for healthy growth as a Christian. So suffering is viewed only in a negative way."[2]


Reflection: Is Fernando accurately describing my view of suffering? How does my desire to avoid or ‘fix’ suffering impact how I live as a follower of Jesus? What do I need to adjust in my understanding and response to suffering?

Peter provides some insights that may help us better understand the place of suffering in the life of a Christian, and how to respond when it touches our lives. Take a moment to read 1 Peter 2:18-25.

Peter writes to the context of the relationship of a servant to his or her master in the 1st Century Roman Empire. I’m adapting this to many of our modern relationships that require our presence, and in which followers of Jesus may experience unjust treatment. Examples may include employment, neighborhoods, schools, and society in general. Here are some observations to take from this text.


First, it is about unjust suffering. This is not suffering that a person deserves. “How is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it?” (1 Peter 2:20). If, for example, a person injures another person, or fails to repay monies borrowed, the resulting ‘suffering’ or penalty that comes from such a wrong is not what Peter is writing about.


Second, the unjust and undeserved suffering is in a context toward God. Peter writes that the person is “conscious of God,” “doing good”, and “commendable before God.” The Christian is sensitive and aware of the interests of God – what pleases Him. And God is aware of what is happening to this person and sees it as “a gracious thing” (2:19-20).


Third, we are called into the life of Jesus Christ. Peter writes, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (2:21). How is Christ an example to us in suffering?

a.         Jesus “committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth” (2:22). Jesus set an example in his actions and his words – he neither acted inappropriately nor spoke wrongly. The example for us is to be blameless. We are called to live lives that are not blameworthy in action or speech. If we are wrong in either, we need to confess that and set it right with those we have offended.

b.         Jesus didn’t retaliate – he didn’t react in kind. “When [Jesus] was reviled [e.g., verbally mocked, cursed, and insulted], he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten” (2:23a). When he did speak he prayed for His abusers (Luke 23:34) and he spoke words of hope to a fellow sufferer (Luke 23:43).


c.         Jesus “continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (2:23b). What does this mean for us? For me, the stance of the person in the foreground of Jani Freimann’s painting resonates with this action of entrusting myself to my Father who loves me, who knows what is happening, who is with me in this suffering, who provides me grace and strength, and who will ultimately set things right. Hands open and facing up showing they are clean, offering, and receiving. Face tilting slightly up to my Father, trusting and at peace.


d.         Jesus suffered for others – and we are being called to share and participate in this same kind of suffering. If I understand what Peter is saying, it is that embracing unjust suffering in this way leads us “to die to sin and live to righteousness.” He then draws from the suffering servant song of Isaiah 53, “by his wounds you have been healed” (2:24). This stance severs us from the old ways of death, strengthens the power of the new ways of life – and, as we enter into this example of Jesus’ life, we are healed.


e.         We also find we are entering into to a fuller experience of being where we really belong: “you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (2:25).




Reflection: What is it like to enjoy the presence of Jesus as example, healer, shepherd and overseer of my soul? How does this better equip me to live in that place of healthy tension between faithfulness to my God and relevance to my culture?



Until next Friday,  


John, a brother


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[1] See Jani Freimann’s posting at (accessed April 30, 2014). The image of "Persecution" is posted with the kind permission of the artist, Jani Freimann.

[2] Ajith Fernando, The Call to Joy and Pain (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007), 51-52.

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