As we continue to look at Peter’s explanation of the proper way to deal with suffering, we note that the kind of suffering in which he calls us to rejoice is the “undeserved” suffering that we experience for confessing Christ. That is to say, when Peter speaks of being blessed in the midst of our fiery trials (1 Peter 4:12–14), he is speaking of suffering that comes solely because of our love for Christ.
Suffering because of our sinful behavior, on the other hand, does not bring the same results. We are blessed in this “deserved” suffering in that God often uses such hardship to bring us to repentance; but by it we do not share in the same kind of blessings bestowed upon Jesus for His obedient suffering. Our “deserved” sufferings do not imitate the sufferings of Jesus, yet we can honor God in them if we turn from sin and acknowledge the justness of our punishment.
In today’s passage, Peter again draws a distinction between the unjust suffering that is our vocation and the suffering that is not. In 4:15 we read that we are not to suffer “as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.” We may be called to suffer (2:21), but like Jesus, it is an honorable thing only when we suffer for doing God’s will and never when we suffer a just punishment for doing wrong.
Peter mentions murderers and thieves here, not because Christians are apt to be either, but because in the Roman empire these crimes were punishable by death, just like the “crime” of refusing to confess the emperor as Lord. However, only dying for the latter was (and is) praiseworthy in God’s sight. Both murder and thievery are also extreme examples Peter uses to make the point that there is no inherent glory and honor in suffering a just punishment.
If we are honest with ourselves, we think being a meddler is a “lesser” sin. Yet many of us are guilty of it. Sometimes we think we are suffering for bearing the name of Christ when in reality we are disliked because we have been contentious or obnoxious. Whenever we suffer, we must take care not to glory in it until we are sure it is the undeserved suffering endured for confessing Christ. If we suffer because of sin, we are not suffering for Christ.
How apt are you to play the part of the righteous victim? Do you become indignant when you experience hardship even though you might deserve it for meddling in someone else’s affairs? Though we are called to rescue others from sin (James 5:19–20), sometimes we are prone to get involved in matters that do not concern us or in which our “help” is not needed. Do your best to stay out of matters that do not concern you and in which your involvement is not necessary.