In the book Insanity of God by Nik Ripken (one I highly recommend), in his grief from all the atrocities he has seen, he travels the world to interview those who have been persecuted for their faith. At one point he is so amazed at the stories coming from one family in particular that he exclaimed, “You need to write a book!”
One of the older men took him to a window. He pointed to the sun and said it raises and sets every day because it’s what is expected. Then he turned to Nik and said,
“When did you stop reading your Bible?”
This has reverberated like thunder to my heart. Those of us in prosperity and freedom read the Bible through a different lens than those in persecution. We approach the historical background of a book like 1 Peter and in dry and dusty terms talk about the “historical background is one of persecution.” It’s like we’re writing a research paper.
“To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered….”
The Christians in some countries know what it is like to have lose their homes, their land, their valued memories, their children, their husbands and wives, mothers and fathers. They are refugees with no place to lay their head. They are hunted and hungry. This is the price they pay for their faith. They understand very clear what it is to be “strangers in the world” and “scattered.”
Now read the next part:
“who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood.”
This is both an encouraging message and tough message to the hearers. It’s one that invites the readers–the persecuted, to continue reading. And when they do they will find more encouragement:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!”
“new birth into a living hope”–priceless hope
“into an inheritance that can never perish”–encouragement after losing everything
“who through faith are shielded by God’s power”–something of their prayers
“now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials”
“These have come so that your faith may be proved genuine and may result in praise”–purpose
“you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy–fruit
“you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls”–goal
These words read through the eyes of the suffering are a breath of life and truth. Through the eyes of the prosperous they’re sweet and ho-hum.
But history has shown that no Christians are forever exempt. One day we too may need to know these truths at an experiential level. In the meantime, let’s pray, and give and do whatever as we ‘remember those in chains as if we ourselves were suffering.’ Because when one part of the body suffers, we all suffer together.