When we hear about following in someone’s footsteps, we think of doing that in the context of what is good for the follower’s well being. Maybe it is success in being a good parent, friend or worker. We basically want to do better and not through a road of suffering.
Simon Peter was schooled otherwise. He had just been promoted to pope by Jesus when he tries to straighten out Jesus from this crazy idea of going to the cross. Jesus straightens him out instead. About a few months later, Jesus tells Peter that he would have his own path of martyrdom. He would carry the standard of the life-changing good news of God’s love into this life and the next with a signature of words and blood. By the time Peter is older, he has grown to embrace suffering for God and His ways as a blessing and not a curse.
1 Peter 2:20-25
20 For what credit is it, if when you do wrong and are beaten for it you take it patiently? But if when you do right and suffer for it you take it patiently, you have God’s approval. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.
But if when you do right and suffer for it you take it patiently, you have God’s approval
I do not like the words “when you do right and suffer”. But truth is non-negotiable for those who want to walk in both love and truth. The fact is that if you consistently want to do right with God as your audience, some of the decisions you make will not be popular. It will be popular to help the homeless, but it will not be popular to say that they only way to the Father is through Jesus. We sometimes have to choose God’s approval and endure guilt trips or far worse in a culture flooded with what Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger calls “the tyranny of moral relativism”.
because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
“Should” is another word that I would not like to see or just water down with “it must mean something else in the Greek”. But the Bible says often that we should expect to suffer as a means to being in step with Jesus’ identity. A few are “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Phillipians 3:10-11). Another is “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10-11).
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.
Yes, suffering for the scandal of following Christ is bad in the moment but it gets better and starting in this life. That is, if we will embrace the richness of being spiritually blessed (Ephesians 1:3).
For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.
Peter may be mentioning this because of the nature of free will and taking for granted how Jesus relates to us through our sufferings. What we learn in all of this passage that should ground his readers and us are three things.
1: Jesus has suffered for us and knows how we feel. He is not asking us to suffer where He had it easy.
2: We have returned to Jesus by his distinct call. This is two-fold because Jesus said that His sheep know His voice but also in a community context. The Church is the ekklesia and the Greek for that is split up in meaning to be a called out community unto a purpose. Our Shepherd calls us to Himself in relationship.
3: The Guardian part is loaded. Some Bible translations use the word Bishop and some Overseer. Bishop makes sense because He is the Head of the Church Universal. Overseer makes sense because the original Greek works as a cognate with “over-scope”. We can experience Jesus being the one who does that “over-scope” every time we come to Him tired of our straying. The Sacrament of Reconciliation works as something very special that Christ installed through the Magisterium to accomplish that in a community and fuller formation process.
So what are we waiting for? We are not called to be masochists but when those times comes to suffer of Jesus, let’s remember who called us, the life of holiness He called us to, and let the redemptive nature of suffering work though us unto our Lord.