5. Like Christ: In Suffering Wrong.
"For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently I but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this in acceptable with God."ó1 Pet. 2:19, 20.
It is in connection with a very everyday matter that Peter gave utterance to those weighty words concerning Christ as our Surety and Example. He is writing to servants, who at that time were mostly slaves. He teaches them "to be subject with all fear," not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For, so he writes, if any one do wrong and be punished for it, to bear it patiently is no special grace. No; but if one do well, and suffer for it, and take it patiently, this is acceptable with God; such bearing of wrong is Christ-like. In bearing our sins as Surety, Christ suffered wrong from man; after His example we must be ready to suffer wrongfully too.
There is almost nothing harder to bear than injustice from our fellow-men. It is not only the loss of pain: there is the feeling of humiliation and injustice, and the consciousness of our rights asserts itself. In what our fellow-creatures do to us, it is not easy at once to recognise the will of God, who thus allows us to be tried, to see if we have truly taken Christ as our example. Let us study that example. From Him we may learn what it was that gave Him the power to bear injuries patiently.
Christ believed in suffering as the will of God. He had found it in Scripture that the servant of God should suffer. He had made Himself familiar with the thought, so that when suffering came, it did not take Him by surprise. He expected it. He knew that thus He must be perfected; and so His first thought was not how to be delivered from it, but how to glorify God in it. This enabled Him to bear the greatest injustice quietly. He saw Godís hand in it.
Christian! would you have strength to suffer wrong in the spirit in which Christ did? Accustom yourself in everything, that happens, to recognise the hand and will of God. This lesson is of more consequence than you think. Whether it be some great wrong that is done you, or some little offence that you meet in daily life, before you fix your thoughts on the person who did it, first be still, and remember, God allows me to come into this trouble to see if I shall glorify Him in it. This trial, be it the greatest or least, is allowed by God, and is His will concerning, me. Let we first recognise and submit to Godís will in it. Then in the rest of soul which this gives, I shall receive wisdom to know how to behave in it. With my eye turned from man to God, suffering wrong is not so hard as it seems.
Christ also believed that God would care for His rights and honour. There is an innate sense of right within us that comes from God. But he who lives in the visible, wants his honour to be vindicated at once here below. He who lives in the eternal, and as seeing the Invisible, is satisfied to leave the vindication of his rights and honour in Godís hands; he knows that they are safe with Him. It was thus with the Lord Jesus. Peter writes, "He committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously." It was a settled thing between the Father and the Son, that the Son was not to care for His own honour, but only for the Fatherís. The Father would care for the Sonís honour. Let the Christian just follow Christís example in this, it will give him such rest and peace. Give your right and your honour into Godís keeping. Meet every offence that man commits against you with the firm trust that God will watch over and care for you. Commit it to Him who judgeth righteously.
Further, Christ believed in the power of suffering love. We all admit that there is no power like that of love. Through it Christ overcomes the enmity of the world. Every other victory gives only a forced submission: love alone gives the true victory over an enemy, by converting him into a friend. We all acknowledge the truth of this as a principle, but we shrink from the application. Christ believed it, and acted accordingly. He said too, I shall have my revenge: but His revenue was that of love, bringing enemies as friends to His feet. He believed that by silence and submission, and suffering and bearing wrong, He would win the cause, because thus love would have its triumph.
And this is what He desires of us too. In our sinful nature there is more faith in might and right than in the heavenly power of love. But he who would be like Christ must follow Him in this also, that He seeks to conquer evil with good. The more another does him wrong, the more he feels called to love him. Even if it be needful for the public welfare that justice should punish the offender, he takes care that there be in it nothing of personal feeling; as far as he is concerned, he forgives and loves.
Ah, what a difference it would make in Christendom and in our churches, if Christís example were followed! If each one who was reviled, "reviled not again if each one who suffered, threatened not, but committed himself to Him that judgeth righteously." Fellow-Christians, this is literally what the Father would have us do. Let us read and read again the words of Peter, until our soul be filled with the thouaht, "If, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God." [*See N ote.]
In ordinary Christian life, where we mostly seek to fulfil our calling as redeemed ones in our own strength, such a conformity to the Lordís image is an impossibility. But in a life of full surrender, where we have given all into His hands, in the faith that He will work all in us, there the glorious expectation is awakened, that the imitation of Christ in this is indeed within our reach. For the command to suffer like Christ has come in connection with the teaching, "Christ also suffered for us, so that we, being dead to sins, might live unto righteousness."
Beloved fellow-Christian! wouldst thou not love to be like Jesus, and in bearing injuries act as He Himself would have acted in thy place? Is it not a glorious prospect in everything, even in this too, to be conformed to Him? For our strength it is too high; in His strength it is possible. Only surrender thyself day by day to Him to be in all things just what He would have thee to be. Believe that He lives in heaven to be the life and the strength of each one who seeks to walk in His footsteps. Yield thyself to be one with the suffering, crucified Christ, that thou mayest understand what it is to be dead to sins, and to live unto righteousness. And it will be thy joyful experience what wonderful power there is in Jesusí death, not only to atone for sin, but to break its power; and in His resurrection, to make thee live unto righteousness. Thou shalt find it equally blessed to follow fully the footsteps of the suffering Saviour, as it has been to trust fully and only in that suffering for atonement and redemption. Christ will be as precious as thy Example as He has ever been as thy Surety. Because He took thy sufferings upon Himself, thou wilt lovingly take His sufferings upon thyself. And bearing wrong will become a glorious part of the fellowship with His holy sufferings; a glorious mark of being conformed to His most holy likeness; a most blessed fruit of the true life of faith.
O Lord my God, I have heard Thy precious word: If any man endure grief, suffering wrongfully, and take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. This is indeed a sacrifice that is well-pleasing to Thee, a work that Thine own grace alone hath wrought, a fruit of the suffering of Thy beloved Son, of the example He left, and the power He gives in virtue of His having destroyed the power of sin.
O my Father, teach me and all Thy children to aim at nothing less than complete conformity to Thy dear Son in this trait of His blessed image. Lord my God, I would now, once for all, give up the keeping of my honour and my rights into Thy hands, never more again myself to take charge of them. Thou wilt care for them most perfectly. May my only care be the honour and the rights of my Lord!
I specially beseech Thee to fill me with faith in the conquering power of suffering love. Give me to apprehend fully how the suffering Lamb of God teaches us that patience and silence and suffering avail more with God, and therefore with man too, than might or right. O my Father, I must, I would walk in the footsteps of my Lord Jesus. Let Thy Holy Spirit, and the light of Thy love and presence, be my guide and strength. Amen.
"What is it thou sayest, my son? Cease from complaining, when thou considerest my passion, and the sufferings of my other saints. Do not say, "To suffer this from such a one, it is more than I can or may do. He has done me great wrong, and accused me of things I never thought of. Of another I might bear it, if I thought I deserved it, but not from him!" Such thoughts are very foolish: instead of thinking of patience in suffering, or of Him by whom it will be crowded, we only are occupied with the injury done to us, and the person who has done it. No, he deserves not the name of patient who is only willing to suffer as much as he thinks proper, and from whom he pleases. The truly patient man asks not from whom he suffers, his superior, his equal, or his inferior; whether from a good and holy man, or one who is perverse and unworthy. But from whomsoever, how much soever, or how often soever wrong is done him, he accepts it all as from the hand of God, and counts it gain. For with God it is impossible that anything suffered for His sake should pass without its reward.
"O Lord, let that become possible to me by Thy grace, which by nature seems impossible. Grant that the suffering wrong may by Thy love be made pleasant to me. To suffer for Thy sake is most healthful to my soul." - From Thomas ŗ Kempis, Of the Imitation of Christ, 3. 19, That the suffering of wrong is the proof of true patience.