A Christian must only experience honorable suffering.There are many ways to experience troubles in this life. When troubles come it should not be for misbehavior. Murder, theft and even meddling are shameful for the one who would be in the church or proclaim oneself as a Christian.
“15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” (1Peter 4:15-19; ESV)
Verse 15: Shameful suffering
- If one goes off and steals or kills the laws of the land will likely catch up with them
- There will be a price to pay
- That price will not be comfortable
- There is no glory, there is no value, there is no excellence in this type of suffering.
- There should be shame for the Christian is who caught doing these things.
- Peter does not stop at those “biggies” but even draws into the equation suffering for meddling in affairs not one’s own.
- Solomon said in Proverbs: “Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.” (Proverbs 26:17; ESV)
- If one decides to get involved in the squabbles of others those squabblers may unify and bring against the meddler.
- In Exodus 2 1 Moses saw some squabbling Hebrews and began “mediating” among them. Well that was taken as meddling and of to Midian he went. There was shameful suffering for Moses in this. He would suffer for 40 more years until God brought him back. Things would then be difficult but the suffering then would be on the honorable side of things.
- Meddling in a thing not one’s own results in suffering. There is no glory in that. There is no excellence in that. One must not try to turn the tables on that considering it to be valuable for to value pain inflicted in this type of situation is dishonorable and destructive. It is not a sign of godliness.
- Suffering for ungodliness is shameful. Do not seek pleasure from that.
Verse 16: Honorable suffering and a proper response
Suffering and mistreatment for godliness is honorable. That type of suffering is not shameful. In this verse Peter says do not act as if persecution is shameful. Remember verse 1 of this chapter which said that the one who suffers is done with sin. They are done with the anti-God approach to life which comes from being turned in on oneself rather than turned out toward God. So the proper response is to praise God, to arm oneself with the attitude of Christ. Such a person must not turn in and slink away, but turn out and praise. They are not to feel inadequate and small or live under a cloud of “I told you so” which may generate around one by friends and family (that is being ashamed). If the devil can thwart one’s recognition of the higher principles he can limit one’s strength. The proper response is to glorify God that one was considered worthy of such suffering.
Verse 17: No sanctuary for sin
In the church of God there was to be goodness. Verse 15 was important because it reminded Christians that they were to be good in the common sense of the word. They were to avoid those behaviors which were held to be universally indecent. People naturally understand that murder and theft are to be avoided. One does not have to be Christian to know that, and when these things are done the law punishes. That punishment is a suffering. In this verse Peter states that the church should be cleansed. In the first place Christians should not do them. Those who do them should be brought to judgment. So the church of God does not provide sanctuary for sin.
Verse 18: A righteous label does not mean one is righteous.
In Christ’s time the Pharisees and the other religious leaders were accepted by the people as being righteous. The leaders were considered icons of godliness by the people and by themselves. Jesus brought many examples of how this had broken down. They were whitewashed tombs he said. As he walked to the cross (Luke 23:31) he said that if men would perform as unjustly as they were with himself when the times were good how would they perform when the times were terrible? In that view those considered righteous were not even being saved. If those considered by mankind to be of first rank before God are not easily turned from their wickedness what about those outside the church?
Verse 19: Summary and faith
Not everyone will find suffering to be the norm. In chapter 3:13 of this letter Peter rhetorically asked about who is going to harm the Christian who is eager to do good. It happens, but it is not the norm. That does not rule it out however. Here Peter says that should honorable suffering happen that sufferer should put themselves at the disposal of Christ. Christ is that person’s creator; that person’s redeemer. Christ’s faithfulness does not quit so keep on keeping on in the good and honorable things of life.
Look at Moses’ life in regard to this. He was judged by his fellow Hebrews and put on the run from his Egyptian benefactors. Forty years in the desert would he wonder. He would suffer when he returned but the creator was faithful. Moses learned to commit himself to God. That was honorable and he is still held in honor. God is faithful.
Some key concepts:
- Being a member of a church does not mean one is godly
- The church must not harbor evil behavior and sin
- Suffering for doing good is honorable
- Suffering for being a meddler or for evil is shameful
- Do good and entrust oneself to God
- Remember how these things work in the cloud of witnesses, Biblical characters, e.g. Moses