Suffering For The Right Reason

I was completing my junior year at Minor High School when Ms. Lamb pulled me aside one day and said A.B. Baggott and I were named to Boys State that summer. I wasn’t sure what this was, but she explained it was a week-long civics lesson including a trip to the state capital for meetings with elected leaders. And so it happened that I was assigned to City Nine with 40-50 other high-schoolers.

Part of Boys State was the military regime of morning calisthenics and marching to meals and classes. Some of the City Nine boys decided to invent marching cadences with profanity and sexual references. After a few days I went to talk with our counselor. I told him I’d just made a recommitment of faith and was trying to be a better Christian, and these cadences weren’t honoring to God nor to the purpose of Boys State.  He agreed, and suggested we have nightly devotions the final three nights. He asked me to lead the devotions. I quickly assented, though later remembering I was away from home without devotional aids in hand!

I heard some grumbling in the showers the next morning after the plan was announced. But each city awarded a Best Citizen Award at the end of the week, and City Nine gave me its award.

I’ve told this story to youth groups over the years not to praise myself, but to illustrate that often when we take a stand, we face affirmation rather than derision.

I really can’t say I ever suffered for my faith. Boys State was the closest I ever came, and even that fell short of suffering. But Simon Peter knew suffering first hand. He was pastor of the Christian church in Rome. He preached a gospel of peace and did good works but was arrested with the false charge of plotting to burn the city. He wrote to fellow believers in Rome and told them suffering is part of following Christ, and we must do so with joy, seeking to bring honor to God. But he also exhorted his spiritual family not to suffer as law-breakers. Christians are to be law-abiding citizens in all respects (1 Peter 4: 12-19).

It’s always disconcerting to hear Christians hide behind their testimony when they’re caught with their hands in the cookie jar. One robbery suspect did this in Mobile last year when on the “perp walk” at the Mobile Police Department he told reporters, “I love Jesus to death!”

We’ve also seen this kind of thing more recently and more seriously with sexual abuse accusations.

When Christians mess up, we must acknowledge our wrong and repent, not hide behind the façade of hypocritical faith.