Wronged for doing
If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let no one among you be made to suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as an intriguer. But whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name.
This week we saw another attack â€“ this time on a bus loaded with Christian youth. Twenty-nine were martyred, another twenty-five were injured. These young martyrs and confessors (people who suffer for the name of Jesus) were headed to the Monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor â€“ to volunteer. One hundred and five have been martyred in Egypt for their faith in Jesus since Christmas. There have been many individuals and families martyred as well.
The living hope of Easter belongs to us in the good news of Christâ€™s resurrection. Easter is hope, even in the midst of persecution and suffering.
We stand at the last Sunday of Easter. Like the apostles and followers of Jesus, gathered in the upper room after the Ascension, we might feel somewhat fearful. What will happen next? When will they come for me, for us? Should we wait and wonder? That only applies if we believe the last Sunday of Easter is the end of Easter.
Our living hope is that even in the midst of waiting, even in the midst of a world that is contrary and adversarial to the commitments and attitudes that belong to us, we have confidence in Godâ€™s promises. We will always have Easter. Easter is not just for a season, but forever. The resurrection, the vision of the Ascension, the promise of the Holy Spirit sustains and encourages our hope. Whatever comes, God has joined us, not only the suffering but also to the victory of Jesus, who overcame death â€“ who in fact destroyed death.
St. Peter does not avoid or play down the issue of suffering. He addresses it squarely, not as something to be feared, but something we can walk into with confidence if we regard ourselves well before the world. This testing will reveal whether the suffering we face is because we have given in to worldly ways or whether we are facing them for our witness, evangelism, and the exercise of love and hospitality the comes from Jesus.
The young Christians of Egypt suffered because they walked with the name of Christ as their identity. They were going to do the Lordâ€™s work. They died to the world and rose to eternal life because of it. Bearing Jesusâ€™ name constituted their â€œblessing.â€ They were wronged, reviled, persecuted for doing right. On this last and always first Sunday of Easter may we be encouraged in doing right in accord with Jesus regardless of suffering.