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“For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth’; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. ” (1 Peter 2: 21-25)

Previously in 1 Peter 2, God’s own people—chosen, redeemed, and special–live to show forth His praises (verses 9-10) not only in word but also in conduct, even as we seek to lead those who speak against us to glorify God (11-12). This is done by honoring those God has placed over us in the government (13-16) and all other Fourth Commandment relationships, even if it means suffering wrongly (17-20).

As Jesus shows in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:38-48), loving those who love us is easy, something even the world can do. But loving our enemies, doing good to and praying for those who hate us and have hurt us—that represents a challenge, even for the child of God. Yet no area of life may set apart God’s people from the world more or leave a greater witness to others than how we respond to mistreatment or suffering.

And why? Because here is where man’s sinful and selfish nature often shows its true colors. Daily we see it in others and in ourselves. Things unfair or hurtful happen to us, and what is often our natural, knee-jerk response? Anger, frustration, vengeful thoughts, tongue-lashing, and mean-spirited retaliation. This, however, only fuels the vicious sin-cycle for the souls of all involved, and fails to provide a good and godly witness to the world.

What can we do? How can we restrain this self-produced vitriol? Well, some temporary, helpful, damage-control tools of “anger management” might be learning to take a deep breath, count to ten, “bite our tongues,” and more. However, these do not resolve the real problem. Here is where the inspired words of Peter offer a far better, heartfelt solution for God’s people.

Look to Jesus! Look to Jesus in repentance and faith. Confess your sin and seek Jesus as your loving and forgiving Savior Who bore your own sins on the tree and by Whose stripes you are healed (verse 24). Look to Jesus, Who, while we were sinners (His enemies), loved us and died for us (Romans 5:8). Look to Jesus as the Shepherd Who alone empowers His sheep to follow Him and “live for righteousness,” Whose suffering has left us the ultimate faith-strengthening “example” (verse 21).

Have you, like me, simply marveled at Jesus’ response to the wave of accusers and abusers who lashed out at Him during His last days—cursing, blaspheming, mocking, taunting, beating, whipping, and finally crucifying Him? Is there a one of us that would not have responded with retaliatory and vengeful feelings, thoughts, words, and even actions?

Yet, our Lamb in holiness and compassion did not revile or threaten. Rather, He responded both by remaining silent (Isaiah 53:7) when called for and by uttering those beyond-amazing words: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) In “committing Himself to Him Who judges righteously” (verse 23), Jesus left Himself and all matters of eternal justice where they properly belong. As Jesus’ conduct also dramatically impacted the souls of at least two witnesses near the cross (one of the criminals and the centurion), so also who knows how our loving and patient witness to suffering may impact others, even our enemies?

Dear Savior, as Your struggling and straying-prone sheep, we give thanks that You have sought us and found us and brought us to repentance and faith. You are our Savior, our Redeemer, and our great “Role Model,” the very Shepherd and Overseer of our souls. Help us ever in faith to follow in Your steps.

Doing good to and praying for those who hate us and have hurt us—that represents a challenge, even for the child of God.

David Schierenbeck is a retired pastor and a member of the CLC Board of Doctrine. He lives in St. Paul Park, Minnesota.