1 Peter 4:15, “But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.”
We continue today with our study of 1 Peter where we have seen the kind of suffering in which Peter calls readers to rejoice in is the undeserved suffering they experience for confessing the Lord Jesus. When Peter speaks of being blessed in the midst of trials (1 Peter 4:12-13) he is talking about suffering that comes because of our love for Jesus Christ.
As important as it is to explain our suffering rightly for the Lord Jesus it is equally important to discuss suffering for our sinful behavior. Christians are blessed in that this “deserved” suffering is such that the Lord uses such suffering to bring them to repentance. When we suffer deserved suffering, we do not experience the same kind of blessing that we do when we suffer for obedience. Our “deserved” sufferings do not imitate the Lord Jesus in His sufferings. With that said, in the midst of them, we can honor the Lord Jesus in them if we can turn from sin and acknowledge the justness of our punishment.
In 1 Peter 4:15, Peter explains the difference between unjust suffering that is our vocation and the suffering that is not ours in Christ. 1 Peter 4:15 says that we do not suffer “as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.” As Christians, we are to expect to suffer (1 Peter 2:21), but like the Lord Jesus, it is honorable only to the degree when we suffer for the will of God and never when we suffer just punishment for doing what is wrong.
Peter’s discusses murders and thieves not because God’s people are apt to be either but because in the Roman Empire such crimes were punishable by death. To the Roman Empire to murder and steal was in the same category as refusing to confess the Emperor as Lord. Both murder and stealing are extreme examples that Peter uses here to make the point there is no glory and honor in suffering a just punishment.
We may think that murder is a lesser sin, but many of us are still guilty of it. For example, we may think we are suffering for bearing the name of Christ when we are disliked because we have been contentious or obnoxious. As Christians when we suffer, we must not glory in it until we are sure it is undeserved suffering endured for confessing Christ. If we suffer though because of sin, we are not suffering for the Lord Jesus.
It’s easy to think that all is well and good and the problem is the other person’s problem with us. But we must not engage in behavior that fails to take into account how we may be wrong. As Christians, we have a new way of seeing life through the gospel, and that includes the power to live through the Holy Spirit that new life. This means we should not ever play the righteous victim card, nor become indignant when we experience hardship, when we may have meddled in someone else’s affairs. While we are called to rescue others from sin (James 5:19-20), even so, we are prone to get involved in matters that do not concern us nor which our help is needed. As Christians, we are called to be wise and discerning, which may mean the best way to help someone is not to get involved, but instead pray for others and for other people to surround them who can speak the truth in love to them.