“But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler” (I Peter 4:15).
Peter says that there are four attitudes believers must have when experiencing trials. First, Christians should not be surprised when trials come into their lives (I Peter 4:12). Second, we are to rejoice in our trials. We are to rejoice and be glad in how we think about our trials, along with how we feel about them and the decision to rejoice while in the midst of them (I Peter 4:13).
Thirdly, Christians are to evaluate their trials (I Peter 4:15-18). As has been clearly stated, trials are a part of the Christian life. Again, we read Jesus’ words from John 16:33. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Therefore, God wants us to assess the trials which should not take us by surprise and in which we are to rejoice. Are the trials we face due to our own sinful choices, or are they caused by something or someone else?
The Apostle Peter says that no Christian should suffer because they have committed murder. Peter is not saying Christians should not be punished if they commit murder, but rather that no Christian should commit murder and thereby face the righteous and inevitable consequences for having committed such a sin.
The word suffer (πάσχω; pascho) means to experience pain. Peter says that believers will suffer, but that suffering should never occur because a believer has premeditatedly taken another person’s life. What would propel a believer in Christ to commit murder? Perhaps in this context there were believers whose family members or friends had been executed by the Roman government. Peter was saying that persecution was no excuse for lawlessness and retaliation.
Peter then mentions other sins such as theft. No believer should be guilty of theft, which is taking something which belongs to someone else. Confiscation of one’s property by the government or by someone else was not an excuse to compensate the loss by stealing someone else’s property.
An evildoer (κακοποιός; kakopoios) is a criminal, or one who engages in doing what is bad or wrong. Being wronged by a criminal does not mean believers are to become criminals in order to right the initial wrong. We are not to break the law because we have suffered due to someone hurting us when they broke the law.
A meddler (ἀλλοτριεπίσκοπος; allotriepiskopos) is a person who busies themselves in other people’s business. These are they who give unwanted and ill-timed advice. In other words, they stick their noses into other people’s business. Christians are not to participate in such behavior.
One commentator writes, “As second-century apologists, or defenders of Christianity, pointed out, the only charge on which true Christians were ever convicted was the charge of being a Christian.” May it be so today.
How do you view your trials? Are you surprised by suffering? Honestly, I think most of us are, in spite of the commandment in I Peter 4:12 to not be shocked and dismayed.
Are you rejoicing in your trials? Again, I think many of us don’t in spite of the commandment in I Peter 4:13. We become anxious, fearful and despondent when tough times come. Rather, we should realize that God promises to bless us when we are in the midst of misery.
Are you evaluating the reasons for your trials? Did you do something wrong? If so, repent and ask forgiveness and prepare to face the consequences. However, if you suffer unjustly when someone else has violated God’s law, you are not permitted to also violate God’s law as payback to those who have hurt you.
Make it a priority of your prayers that you will ask God to help you obey the commandments found in this text from I Peter. It may not be easy at first to not be taken by surprise or to rejoice, or to not seek revenge when trials eventually come, but continue to ask, seek and knock (Luke 11:5-13) for God’s strength to be faithful to His Word. Do so boldly and shamelessly. God will answer your persistent prayer.
Soli deo Gloria!