Are You a Troublesome Meddler?

Today, I was reading the book of 1 Peter to remind myself of the purposes of God in the suffering of true believers. As a result, the words of John MacArthur challenged me, especially as he commented on the need for us to evaluate our suffering according to biblical wisdom. The apostle Peter warns us to be careful that we don’t bring persecution on ourselves and then call it “suffering for Jesus.” When that is the case, according to the apostle, what is really happening is that we are simply reaping the consequences of our own foolishness and pride.

Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.

1 Peter 4:15-16

MacArthur comments on these verses by going to great lengths to warn us against becoming troublesome meddlers.

Not all suffering brings Holy Spirit relief. Trouble stemming from lawless actions obviously does not constitute suffering for righteousness. If any believer is a murderer, or thief (capital crimes in the ancient world, he or she has no right to complain about being punished, nor any right to expect the Spirit’s graces. The same applies if any should suffer as an evildoer (kakopoios), a more general term that encompasses all crimes without exception (cf. 2:14; 3 John 11).

The surprising inclusion of the term rendered troublesome meddler (allotriepiskopos), used only here in the New Testament, and at first seemingly minor in comparison to Peter’s previous terms, shows that all sins, not just crimes, forfeit the Holy Spirit’s comfort and rest. The word literally means, “one who meddles in things alien to his calling, “an agitator, or “troublemaker” Paul’s exhortations to the Thessalonians illustrate the word’s meaning:

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you. (1 Thess. 4:11)

For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. (2 Thess. 3:11-12).

Christians are never to be troublemakers or agitators in society or in their places of work (cf. 1 Tim. 2:1-3; Titus 3:1-5). They may confront the sins in the lives of other believers, help administer church discipline, challenge unbelievers with the gospel, and exhort fellow saints to greater levels of godliness; but regarding others’ private matters that do not concern them, believers should never intrude inappropriately. More specifically, Peter was referring to political activism and civil agitation-disruptive or illegal activity that interferes with the smooth functioning of society and government. Such activity would compel the authorities to mete out punishment (Rom. 13:2-4; for a broader discussion of these issues, see chapter 13 of this volume). It is wrong for believers to view that punishment as persecution for their faith. If they step outside the faith and bring trouble, hostility, resentment, or persecution on them-selves, they have no more right to expect Holy Spirit relief than if they were murderers. That Peter here includes allotriepiskopos in his list of sins may mean that some disciples, in their zeal for the truth and resentment of paganism, were causing trouble in society for reasons beyond a sincere and legitimate concern for the gospel.

I remember a conversation I once had with a Russian pastor who had suffered greatly under Soviet communism. I asked if he or his fellow Christians ever rebelled against that form of government. He replied that it was all their convictions that if they were ever resented and persecuted by the secular authorities, it would be for the gospel only. The Russian church actually grew strong in that environment, and he wondered how pastors in America could have holy people without their suffering for the gospel.

The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 1 Peter, pages 254-255.

Print this entry