Chapter 44 Self-Control In The Cross

“Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:18-21).

This Scripture makes very clear that there is an exemplary side of the cross—a side which we are to imitate. In His cross, the Lord Jesus has left us an example to follow. His cross is the pattern for Christian living. We cannot walk as He walked, or in His steps as He trod the earth. We can, however, after being saved, emulate certain elements which He exhibited in His cross.

Exemplified by Jesus

During those days just previous to the cross, and indeed while hanging on that cruel instrument of death, our Lord was subjected to every kind of abuse. He was scourged until the skin was taken off His back; the hairs of His head were plucked out; “His visage was so marred more than any man”; He was insulted, mocked, spat on, ridiculed, taunted about His trust in God, smitten with a reed, and crowned with sharp thorns. All this was meted out to Him most unjustly. To that mocking mob, He seems “a worm and no man.”

Did our Lord deserve this? Of course not! He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth. Pilate found no fault in Him, neither could the X-rays of God’s holy law find the slightest thing at which it could point an accusing finger.

Now all this He endured with patience and perfect self-control. There was in Him no thought of revenge. He did not keep a little black book to record such insults and harbor grudges. He did not think for one moment of repayment for their evil deeds. “When He suffered, He threatened not” (1 Peter 2:23). Lovers of revenge cannot dwell on this hallowed ground. If a believer desires sanctification—pants to be conformed to the image of Christ—then he must learn what self-control means, and he can learn it only at the cross of Christ our Lord.

In this Epistle Peter was writing to the believers scattered far and wide throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. In those days many believers were slaves of masters, most of whom were heathen. In the verses at the head of this chapter, Peter is counseling them about their conditions. He says, in effect, that if they are beaten for doing wrong and take it patiently, there is no glory in that! They endure it patiently because they know they deserve it for their wrongdoing.

But if they are buffeted for their Christian life and witness—that is, undeservedly and unjustly—and take that patiently, then it is something acceptable with God, because it is an image of Christ. Believers are not to take revenge. They are not to retaliate when they are wrongfully treated. They are not to be bitter and resentful.

Expected of the Believer

This, said Peter, is that to which we are called. This is Christian conduct in the face of unjust treatment. The cross reflects our Lord’s true character and, in the mirror of it, we see how we should live and act. Mercy and love trace a path for their fullest exercise even under the most provocative circumstances. Our Lord’s heart was in perfect repose.

Throughout these base assaults, no billow of impatience heaved within Him. No storm of angry revenge rose up in Him. We are to gaze upon Him and see in such conduct our own high calling in Him. It is not just to suffer—not just to suffer unjustly, which we may do with stoical feelings and hardened determination. No! We are to suffer patiently and without thought of revenge.

People are just the same today. Human nature has not improved with the advance of civilization. The world of unregenerate men is just as rude, unkind, mean, and hateful as at any other time in history. There are saints who have been in prison for many years in China; others have been exiled to freezing and lonely places in Russia; still others have been persecuted beyond description in Africa. Many in our own country have suffered the ribald mockery of rude men. The natural heart tends to resent such treatment, to bear a grudge, to seek opportunity for revenge, to plan retaliation.

The call for Christian living is to be conformed to our Lord Jesus Christ, to be conformed to His death, to emulate His behavior as He went to the cross of shame. In Him we see nothing but perfect self-control. If we are called to suffer unjustly, we are to do so without complaint, to do so patiently. How we stand up under suffering, and how we bear it, is not only a test of Christian character, but it reveals Christian character, and develops likeness and conformity to Christ our Lord and Saviour. There is no severer test for the Christian than how we endure unkind and unjust treatment.

Fill all my vision, Saviour, I pray,
Let me see only Jesus today;
Though through the valley Thou leadest me,
Thy fadeless glory encompasseth me.

Fill all my vision, Saviour divine,
Till with Thy glory my spirit shall shine,
Fill all my vision, that all may see
Thy holy Image reflected in me.

Fill all my vision, let naught of sin
Shadow the brightness shining within.
Let me see only Thy blessed face,
Feasting my soul on Thy infinite grace.

Avis B. Christiansen