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Suffering for the right reasons

Let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler. But if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed but let him glorify God in having that name. 1 Peter 4:15-16 CSB

From the text, Peter expands his teaching on suffering by telling his readers to avoid punishment that the sufferer justly deserves. But if a Christian suffers unjustly because of Jesus’ name, he ought not to be ashamed. In an earlier context Peter teaches that God sends governors to punish those people who do wrong. “Or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good” (1 Peter 2:14). Paul, too, teaches that a ruler was to punish the wrongdoer: “If you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For it is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong” (Romans 13:4). Peter mentions three categories: the murderer, the thief, and the meddler or evildoer. This implies that for someone to be so designated such, he must engage in criminal activities that are punishable by law. He warns that a Christian ought to live such an exemplary life that he can never be classified as a criminal who is guilty before a court of law. Maybe the warning reflects the earlier life of the Christians to whom he is writing this letter. Now that they are in Christ, they are no longer part of the world. However, should they suffer for criminal deeds, they would no longer be a testimony for Christ. Then, Peter added the conditional clause in verse 16: “But if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed but let him glorify God in having that name.” The contrast Peter presents makes it clear that when a Christian suffers persecution, he must have a clear conscience, so that he is able to defend himself without shame. The name Christian appears three times in the New Testament. During the early years, “The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch” (Acts 11:26). They were known as followers of Christ and as the verb “called” indicates, the name did not originate with the believers but with the unconverted population of Antioch. The second instance the word “Christian” was used was when Paul shared the gospel to Herod Agrippa II and Agrippa responded by saying, “Are you going to persuade me to become a Christian so easily?” (Acts 26:28). Once again, the use of the name seems to have evoked ridicule rather than respect. Additionally, its use spread rapidly throughout the Roman Empire. So, when Peter wrote his epistle, presumably from Rome, the term “Christian,” the third time the term was used in the New Testament, it appears that Christians have been well known among the Gentiles. As a wise pastor, Peter knows the heart of man. When a believer meets scorn, ridicule, and contempt because of his faith, shame often prevents him from witnessing for Christ. Instead, Peter exhorts Christian to remain steadfast even when persecuted because of their faith in Christ. Peter continues to remind Christians that they should not be ashamed if they are persecuted because they identify with Christ.


Isaac De Guzman

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