Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Current Study: First Peter
Today’s Topic: The Right Reason to Suffer
Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 4:15-16 (NIV) If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
Let it be known that I am not in any way advocating criminal behavior. But if you have ever considered crime, I hope you would never be as dumb as these guys. These are true stories.
A man walked into a convenience store, put a $20 bill on the counter and asked for change. When the clerk opened the drawer, the man pulled a gun and asked for all the cash in the register. The man took the cash from the clerk and fled, leaving his $20 bill on the counter. So how much did he get from the drawer? Fifteen bucks. Go figure.
In West Virginia, a knife-wielding mugger accepted a $300 check from his victim. The thief was arrested the next day trying to cash the check.
In Tennessee, a burglar realized he’d left his Nikes at the home he’d just robbed. So he returned and asked the lady of the house if she’d seen his shoes. She called the cops, and the guy was arrested.
The police had no trouble finding this thief. When he used a stolen credit card to buy some cigars, he signed his own name on the receipt. Later he tried to buy some merchandise at a store, but the card came up as stolen. When asked for some identification, he presented his own driver’s license.
While these are funny stories, it’s not funny at all that so many people who call themselves Christians are involved in criminal behavior. And because they are suffering the consequences of their crimes, they somehow believe they are suffering for Christ. But let’s get this straight right away – nowhere in the Bible is suffering for doing wrong ever commended as Christ-like. We are only suffering like Christ and for Christ if we are suffering for doing right.
I wonder how much time and money could be saved by people if they would just accept responsibility for their actions. How many hours of counseling could be avoided if people would simply deal with the fundamental question of personal choice? How much emotional distress is really an attempt at self-justification because we don’t want to admit that what we are suffering is the direct result of what we did wrong?
As Peter emphasizes this point in today’s Scripture, he clearly states that the suffering we experience because of wrong-doing is not to be a part of the Christian’s life. I think we could all agree with him when he tells us to steer clear of murder and stealing or any other kind of criminal behavior. But then he adds we should also never suffer because we have meddled. Some of you will think I’m meddling just to address the issue of meddling. If so, you’re the ones to whom this most applies.
The Greek word for meddling is full of meaning. Thayer’s Greek Dictionary defines it as one who takes the supervision of affairs pertaining to others and in no wise to himself. My mom always reminded me of this truth when she would simply say “MYOB.” I had been taught what that means – Mind your own business. She was reminding me that I am not in control, and I have no right to assume control of other people’s lives. It is not my spiritual gift – in fact there is no spiritual gift or fruit of the Spirit – to meddle in other people’s lives.
That’s tough as a pastor – a shepherd – who has been called by God to proclaim the truth and lead people to spiritual growth. But here’s how that problem is resolved – meddlers meddle for personal benefit while shepherds lead for the benefit of the sheep. Jesus never meddled – He led.
Unfortunately, far too many Christians meddle because it provides them with a sense of accomplishment, value, worth, or purpose. There are way too many control freaks in the church. God alone is responsible for outcomes.
But how do meddlers suffer? Well, primarily they suffer from a lack of personal intimacy with others. They cannot find true peace in their hearts, because their identity is wrapped up in what they can do to change others. And people don’t change easily, so it seems like their work is never done. Besides that, nobody likes a meddler who seeks to control them. Meddlers are lonely. And to top it all off, they blame their loneliness on others: it’s other people’s fault for not being more loving, more compassionate, more concerned, or more friendly. If only they would take responsibility for their own suffering.
Yesterday we quoted from a book entitled The Imitation of Christ. In another part of that book, Thomas a Kempis writes, We might have much peace if we would not meddle with other people’s sayings and doings.
If you are suffering because of wrong, then endure it and learn from it. If you are suffering because you are doing what you think is right, then you’d better check two things – whether or not God’s Word says it’s right, and whether or not your motives for doing it are sincere. Pure and sincere motives are ALWAYS based on doing what’s best for others, not for self. If you’re suffering for doing that, then rejoice that you are in the company of Christ.