I was sick a lot when I was younger. In addition to not having the best diet, I tended to run myself ragged. I also had bad allergies—like most of my family—and these developed into sinus or respiratory infections. Going to the doctor was always a hassle, as sometimes I had something which a prescription could treat, sometimes not. Since I felt like crap in both cases, I stopped bothering. Then in 11th grade I got mono, and while being treated for that, my doctor broke down the different symptoms I should watch out for—the color of mucus, etc—that could be treated. When these surface, he said, come in, because what you have will only get worse. There was no sense in suffering needlessly.
I doubt it was a macho thing with me, but I just figured people get sick, get laid up, and move on. Maybe I just didn’t want to have whatever I had confirmed—better to have something to complain about, right?
Well, if I were living during the Book of Peter, a different type of suffering would have been encouraged, even championed. As Peter expresses, suffering exposes one’s faith (1:7). In fact, bearing an unjust pain is commendable—look at Jesus (2:19).
Though why someone should embrace unfortunate conditions is strange. Why not offer suggests about ameliorating their situation?
No suggestions from Peter, though; instead, he suggests, when not suffering, Christians should be an example to those around them (2:12). Since their suffering is a product of their faith, they should act through their faith to help people, and in so doing, these good deeds silence ignorance (2:15). Though no mention of this easing any suffering, though perhaps this is implied as a best case scenario?
But then slaves creep into the picture (2:18). I have a hard time feeling sorry for people who are being persecuted for following their religious beliefs when their beliefs then suggest how people who are enslaved should feel content in their unfavorable circumstances—i.e. human bondage.
This unfortunate mindset continues. While being told to demonstrate compassion (3:8) and humility is great, telling wives to be submissive to their husbands (3:1, 5) isn’t. Telling husbands to respect their wives is positive, but doing so because these women need to be reminded that they are the weaker partner isn’t.
Rejecting revenge (eye for an eye) is positive (3:9), as is courting disbelief with respect (3:15-16) –too bad more don’t.
In trying to perhaps find the positive among all the crap these people had to likely endure for following Christian beliefs at a time when it was highly frowned upon, the best gem in this book surfaces: love covers over a multitude of sins (4:8). The idea is likely that loving people allows you to overlook their mistreatment of you. However, there’s a different, perhaps unintentional way to view this piece of advice. If the issue with “sexual immorality” involves giving into lust, etc., then love should combat this. In fact, gay love should trump sexual immorality, especially since this “love” comment comes in the context of denouncing a pagan lifestyle (4:3).
With the physical de-emphasized in favor of emphasizing the love two people share, then this falls in line with what Peter is advocating.
Exploring this would undo a lot of the suffering millions of people the world over—not just gays and lesbians but the people who love and are forced to also struggle with “accepting” these human beings—would be diminished. Although this runs contrary to what Peter is saying, not all suffering is worth bragging about, at least not today, not with all the things which people are forced to endure on a daily basis that can’t be handled easily, like hunger and lack of sanitary living conditions.
One would think that instead of encouraging people to embrace their suffering, they could instead be taught how to cope with it, not wear it like a badge of honor. Didn’t Jesus suffer so that others wouldn’t have to?