1 Peter 3:13-22 (NRSV)
13Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? 14But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, 15but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you;
16yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. 17For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God's will, than to suffer for doing evil.
18For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 19in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 20who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.
21And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves younot as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.
When we have stood up for what is right—for love and justice, for care of the poor and vulnerable—and find ourselves suffering, either as a direct result or due to unrelated circumstances, here is what we know for sure: in that very suffering we meet Jesus, “God with us.”
In first-century Roman culture, the setting of this letter, a suffering God was unheard of. (In some circles that is still true today.) Why would anyone worship a God who didn’t replace suffering with prosperity? What good is a God who doesn’t make our life easier?
But Peter reminds Christ’s followers that we can bear suffering and brokenness precisely because “Christ also suffered” (v. 18). Christ knows everything we go through as human beings because he was fully human. Christ does not leave us alone in our suffering but often reveals himself more clearly there than anywhere else. And because he is also fully divine, he promises a time when suffering will be no more.
Lord Jesus, amid the suffering of worldwide pandemic, and amid consequences we bear for standing with the vulnerable, remind us that you don’t turn away from suffering, but that your resurrection life has the final word. Amen.