World English Bible translation
4:15For let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or an evil doer, or as a meddler in other men's matters. 4:16 But if one of you suffers for being a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God in this matter. 4:17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God. If it begins first at us, what will happen to those who don't obey the gospel of God? 4:18 "If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will happen to the ungodly and the sinner?" 4:19 Therefore let them also who suffer according to the will of God in doing good entrust their souls to him, as to a faithful Creator.
Peter has been writing to these Christians about the persecutions that they were beginning to endure. He had told them that if they wish to share in the glory of Christ, they must also share in His sufferings. Moreover, persecution by the world is a kind of a trial that we must endure because it shows us that our faith is genuine. God allows such things because of the importance of faith.
But in this passage Peter feels the need to qualify his teachings about suffering. He tells them to "let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or an evil doer, or as a meddler in other men's matters." Not many of us may be murderers, though if we take the standard that Jesus spoke of about, if you have been angry in your heart at another man you are a murderer, we may all qualify. But the real point that Peter is trying to make is that he is not writing about suffering because of our own wrongdoing.
Let's face it. Most of the time when we suffer it is because we can do some pretty stupid things. Even as Christians we are not immune to doing stupid things. I remember once I was very sick with the flu but I felt obligated to continue to try to work. I was a relatively new Christian and thought I could just hang in there and tough it out. While I was taking my daughter to school I was late to stop at a red light and had a fender bender. I remember thinking, God, why didnít you help me to avoid this?
God doesn't force us to quit doing stupid things. He will counsel against them. He will lead us away from them. But if we just insist on doing something stupid, we can ... and we do. But if we suffer for our own failings, let us not confuse this with the suffering that Peter is writing about. He is talking about suffering for being a Christian and sharing in the sufferings of Christ. That is a very different thing than suffering for our own mistakes.
Peter also tells them that God is first judging His own house. As the righteous judge, God begins with His own people. Our behavior is judged by a higher standard because we have received the light of Christ. This is not to say that God does not lift up those that fail, it is only to remind us that we are also being judged by the God of the universe. There is nothing inconsistent with the same God that we know and love also being the judge of the universe. Those in Christ need not fear the judgment of God.
We can know all of these things, we can know that God is judging His own people first, and still entrust our souls to Him. In fact, we must. Who else can we turn to except the faithful Creator of the universe? There is none other worthy of our worship and service. God may judge us, but He is also willing to serve our punishment Himself. He is the God of grace and mercy in whom we can place our faith.
Are you prepared for the judgment of God? Can you entrust your soul to the faithful Creator and not lose hope?
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