Located about five minutes southeast of downtown Dallas stands a large plastic man. Big Tex is his name. Every fall he welcomes hundreds of thousands of people to the Texas State Fair. The State Fair attracts a diverse audience: moms and daughters, boyfriends and girlfriends, high schoolers and those who are just plain high, and everyone in between. On one Saturday each year in early October, however, Big Tex says “Howdy” to a whole different breed. In College Football’s equivalent of the Hatfields and McCoys, the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns square off in the shadow of Big Tex on the hallowed grounds of the Cotton Bowl.
Three times in my life, I have been lucky enough to attend this game, and it is an experience that I will never forget. Each time I have gone to the game, I have been amazed at the contrast of colors. The Cotton Bowl seats more than 80,000 people. In a unique twist, exactly 40,000 of these people are wearing Sooner Crimson, and the other 40,000 are wearing Bevo Burnt Orange. These obvious colors make it easy for all to identify your allegiance as you wander through the State Fair eating corn dogs and waiting for the start of the game.
I have been to three OU/Texas games. As an OU graduate, I (of course) am cheering for the Sooners. In my three trips to the Cotton Bowl, I have truly seen it all both on and off the field. On the field, the Sooners are 1-1-1 (one win, one loss, and one tie) when I have seen the game live. Off the field, I have celebrated the win with those garbed in red, and been ridiculed by those in orange after a Sooner defeat. In both cases, my affiliation with the Sooners was the reason for my celebration or suffering.
I was thinking about this experience today as I read 1 Peter 4:12-19. These verses conclude a lengthy section of 1 Peter dealing with the suffering a Christian undergoes because of their faith in Christ. As he wraps up this section, in 1 Peter 4:12, Peter wants all believers to not think that “something strange” was happening to them if they were experiencing persecution for their faith. Peter writes to let them know that persecution for the Christian was to be expected. As they lived out their spiritual lives in a hostile world wearing the colors of Christ, they should expect some suffering.
In 4:13-16 Peter says this, “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. . . if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” In these verses, Peter is reminding Christians that they wear on their bodies the colors of Christ. Everyone who passes around them knows that they are followers of Jesus. Because of that, they will share in the fate of Christ. In this life, Jesus was booed and beaten, mocked and marked, chided and crucified. If that is how the world treated Christ, then it should come as no surprise when the world treats you in this way. Because of my OU sweatshirt at the OU/Texas game, I was mocked by Texas fans. Because of my faith in Christ, I may be mocked by those who do not know Christ. In both cases they are not really rejecting me as much as they are rejecting the One whose Name I bear.
In the midst of this sobering declaration, however, Peter invites Christians to rejoice. Why would Christians rejoice at the notion that they will be persecuted? The reason is simple. Just as my OU shirt brought me ridicule in defeat, so my OU shirt brought me celebration in victory. In a similar way, our affiliation with Christ may cause us to be beaten down in the present, but that same affiliation with Christ will allow us to be with Him in His exaltation in the future. Because we are robed in His colors we get to celebrate His victory! That is reason to rejoice.
So the next time you experience difficulty because of your faith in Christ. Remember you are wearing His colors. Our affiliation with Him is the reason for our temporary suffering and our eternal celebration.