“But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name” (I Peter 4:15-16).
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 (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, theft, other criminal acts or by being meddlesome (I Peter 4:15). Peter is not saying Christians should not be punished if they commit sin, but rather that no Christian should commit such sin and thereby face the righteous and inevitable consequences for having sinned.
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 abused in some way by the Roman government. Peter was saying that persecution was no excuse for lawlessness and retaliation.
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.” This is what Peter refers to in I Peter 4:16.
If any believer in Christ suffers, as indicated in vs. 13-15, because they are Christians (Χριστιανός; Christianos) or ones identified with and following the person and teachings of Jesus Christ, let them not be ashamed (αἰσχύνω; aischyno) or feel disgrace. Rather, to suffer for Christ is a glorious thing.
If we should so suffer for Christ because we are so closely identified with Christ, God commands us to then glorify Him because of the name of Jesus. We are not to complain about our circumstances, but rather we are to glorify God. We are not to criticize those who have hurt us, but rather we are to glorify God. We are not to seek revenge against those who have sinned against us, but rather we are to glorify God.
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. On the contrary, we are glorify God by obeying His commandments.
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 glorify God 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!