“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Pet. 5:8-9).
In his essay/devotional last week, Insanity Builds Character, my fellow writer highlighted the importance, nay necessity, of stubborn perseverance to the Christian walk. In that post he mentions the following, “Suffering, pain, adversity, all work to elicit perseverance from a person. In this way (and others not mentioned here but outlined also in James 1 and 1 Peter 4), suffering is actually a blessing to believers, for without suffering we would never learn to persevere in trusting God.” There are many kinds of suffering in the world, but here I want to particularly touch on material and social suffering -or specifically lack thereof.
In the United States, and in some ways the West at large, culture has been largely prosperous in recent centuries, affording opportunities for self betterment unparalleled in previous times; along with that, Western civilization has maintained a social structure largely complementary to, at best, and ambivalent of, at worst, the Christian faith. This is not to say that eras of mass poverty and anti-Christian social movements do not continue to exist, but the prevalence of affluence and Christian nominalism, especially in the U.S., has made it possible to cheaply claim the Christian faith in many cases. This poses a challenge to perseverance in the faith that Peter addresses above: be sober minded, be watchful. It is not so much a trial of suffering as it is a temptation to complacency brought on by the material and social ease that many of us enjoy. As such, it can be easy to try and live out our Christianity so as to not rock the social and material boats of our lives. This is the kind of ‘Christianity’ that is hollow on the inside, the kind that is fundamentally defined, not by what Christ has done, but by a party line or special interest group. This is why perseverance in watchfulness is such a critical part of the Christian walk, and not merely personal watchfulness, but watchfulness performed in conjunction with the community that God has provided: his Church. God’s wrath is stirred up against those who walk complacently in the comfortableness of wealth and do not weep over the injustices on the earth:
“Woe to those who are at ease in Zion,
and to those who feel secure on the mountain of Samaria,
the notable men of the first of the nations,
to whom the house of Israel comes!
2 Pass over to Calneh, and see,
and from there go to Hamath the great;
then go down to Gath of the Philistines.
Are you better than these kingdoms?
Or is their territory greater than your territory,
3 O you who put far away the day of disaster
and bring near the seat of violence?
4 “Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory
and stretch themselves out on their couches,
and eat lambs from the flock
and calves from the midst of the stall,
5 who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp
and like David invent for themselves instruments of music,
6 who drink wine in bowls
and anoint themselves with the finest oils,
but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!
7 Therefore they shall now be the first of those who go into exile,
and the revelry of those who stretch themselves out shall pass away.”
8 The Lord God has sworn by himself, declares the Lord, the God of hosts:
“I abhor the pride of Jacob
and hate his strongholds,
and I will deliver up the city and all that is in it.”
So the next time we are at a crossroads, it behooves us to ask ourselves WHY we are saying, doing, voting, spending time the way we are: is it driven by a Godly desire to pursue His glory, or is it a merely a crinkled Christianese wrapper around an idol of ease? The first will honor God and bless our neighbors, the second will only incur judgment and wrath.