Living in Wartime: 1 Peter 4:1-2 And The Good In Suffering

I wrote a post a few weeks ago on “Living in Wartime,” and this whole idea is still heavy on my thinking. This wartime mindset of the Church is central to the book of 1 Peter, which we’re nearing the end of in our Shepherding group. C.S. Lewis called it a “wartime mindset;” John MacArthur, in a sermon series on 1 Peter, calls it a mindset of “life without loose ends.” Engaging life with a wartime mindset keeps coming up even in my reading outside Scripture; I just can’t seem to escape it. So if this grows into a mini-series, you’ll know why.

Let me just clarify something. By a “wartime mindset” I do not necessarily mean doing battle in the culture wars. We Christians have to pick our battles very carefully on cultural issues. The Church is called to protect and proclaim the Gospel first, and above everything else. And sometimes Christians tend to make Jesus into a warrior against every avenue of sin popping up in the culture, at the neglect of spreading the Gospel, which is the only thing that will actually change people and kill sin. The kind of “wartime mindset” I’m talking about is the humble longing for Christ and focusing of priorities that happens when a war is going on. During a war, people tend to value different things (usually better things), and people don’t waste their time with “loose ends.”

But enough soapboxing.

1 John 4:1,2 (ESV) says, “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.”

There is a blessing in suffering, or as Peter might say, when Christ’s sufferings are produced in our lives. When living a life of obedience to God brings difficulties and sufferings in this sinful world, there is real, solid good in it. Christian suffering during a time of war (physical or spiritual), cuts ties with sin, and cuts worldliness out of our lives. So there is also good in not always trying to avoid suffering. In suffering, especially during a time of war, sin goes from the Christian, and the Christian longs for Christ. May we fix our minds this way.

In the novel Cold Mountain, the main character Inman reflects near the end of the book on what war had done to him:

“[Inman] had been alone in the world and empty for so long…and so he believed everything that had been taken out of him might have been for a purpose. To clear space for something better.”

In a culture that grows increasingly post-Christian and hostile to the Gospel, may God expose what we love more than Him, and replace those things with Himself. May He continually give us the right priorities in this broken world, as we long for Christ’s appearing, when “His glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13).

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