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1 Peter 4 v 12 - 19

As we have said in studying earlier passages of the same nature as this, both from Peter and James and also Paul, Persecution and the call to remain loyal through the worst suffering can seem alien to those of us Christians who live untrammelled lives in the prosperous West in the Twenty first century. We have to remind ourselves that we, not the readers of Peter's letters nor those in China, many parts of India, Pakistan and many other countries-making it believers in the majority of the twenty first century populace-are the anomaly here! In Britain we are even protected by law against any religious discrimination. So, whilst reminding ourselves of this privilege-surely very few bar Julian of Norwich seek out suffering?- let us look at Peter's viewpoint. Firstly, he reckoned that persecution was inevitable, remember that tradition informs us that Peter died by being crucified upside down, because people treat others who aren't like them with suspicion and Christians set out to identify themselves with a different world order than this. Secondly, that persecution is a test, both in that devotion is often defined by one's willingness to suffer for it: those Soviet guards who tortured Richard Wurmbrand forty years ago recognised that only too well. Thirdly, persecution is a sharing in the sufferings of Jesus Christ, walking the way He did, and if we suffer as He suffered we will be glorified with Him. I do believe that, although few believers I have met have suffered physically alongside Christ, there is a way that we believers in the West suffer in a psychological way, both because of the assaults of ardent, militant atheists and because our children so rarely grow up to follow Jesus in the way we are doing. There are many and varied reasons we could give for this, but one thing is certain is that we in the Church have been on the defensive for too long, hiding from the atheists' blasts. There are those like Professor Alister Mc Grath and Prof. John Lennox who have taken the fight to the likes of Richard Dawkins and have been victorious. In the face of persecution the readers of Peter's letters stood firm: surely we can do this too?

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