When believers confessed their faith in Christ and joined the church, they set a boundary marker that distinguished them from the rest of society. Unfortunately, this became a source for conflict because it implicitly passed a negative judgment on their community and its values.
Read Hebrews 10:32-34 and Hebrews 13:3. What was the experience of the audience of Hebrews after their conversion?
It is very likely that the readers of Hebrews suffered verbally and physically at the hands of mobs stirred up by opponents (e.g., Acts 16:19-22, Acts 17:1-9). They were also imprisoned, and it is possible that they were beaten as well, because officials had the power of authorizing punishment and incarceration, often without following appropriate judicial norms, while they gathered evidence (e.g., Acts 16:22-23).
Read Hebrews 11:24-26 and 1 Peter 4:14, 1 Peter 4:16. How do the experiences of Moses and of the readers of 1 Peter help us understand why Christian believers were persecuted?
To “bear the reproach of Christ” simply meant to identify oneself with Christ and endure the shame and abuse that this association implied. Public animosity against Christians was the result of their distinctive religious commitments. People can get offended by religious practices that they don’t understand or by people whose lifestyle and morals could make others feel guilty or shamed. By the middle of the first century A.D., Tacitus considered Christians to be guilty of “hatred against mankind.” — Alfred J. Church and William J. Brodribb, trans., The Complete Works of Tacitus, (New York: The Modern Library, 1942) Annals 15.44.1. Whatever the exact reason for that charge, certainly false, many early Christians, such as the ones that Paul had written this letter to, were suffering for their faith.
|Everyone, a Christian or not, suffers. What does it mean, however, to suffer for Christ’s sake? How much suffering that we face is for Christ’s sake, and how much is brought about by our own choices?|