The word 'meddler' showed up in the passage I preached on this week (1 Peter 4:12-19).

Peter encouraged his readers to suffer as Christians, not as murderers, thieves or criminals. That makes sense to me. There's a big difference between suffering for your faith and suffering for your foolish decisions.

But what about the meddling?

Peter's list doesn't stop with criminals. Right there, at the end, he tacks on "meddlers." Don't suffer as a murderer, thief, criminal or meddler. One of these is not like the other.

It's hard to know when you're meddling. Where's the line between being involved and interested and engaged and meddling? It certainly doesn't feel like a bright line to me.

The Greek word we translate 'meddler' is 'allotriepiskopos'. The word is formed by smashing together 'allotrios' which means "belonging to another" and 'episkopos' which means "guardian or elder."

Maybe meddling happens when we try to be the boss of other people's lives, people who haven't invited us into that role. We over-reach, over-estimate our power and get burned. We small people make horrible gods and become meddlers when we try.

I'm grateful the Lord acknowledges that meddlers suffer, even as murderers, thieves and criminals. It is a painful thing to have your lordship over someone's life rejected. God knows this well.

And so do we.

Don't forget the outsiders

The outsiders never complain. Or if they do, you don't hear it.

It's relatively easy to make insiders happy. They'll tell you what to do. They'll give you applause when you please them and poke you when you don't. Pay attention to them and you might experience comfort and peace, the silence of squeaky wheels greased.

I know this because I'm often an insider. My gender and skin color and background and profession and education and experience give me access to huge megaphones and tremendous influence in my small worlds. I've seen leaders smile when I tell them they hit the ball out of the park. I try my best to encourage frequently and well, to do this out of love. But this gives me influence.

The outsiders have little influence. I know this because I often feel like an outsider. My blend of ethnicity and frequent hopping around, my strange interests and stranger training ... these often leave me on the outside looking in. Though my above-mentioned advantages give me a megaphone, I'm often standing shoulder-to-shoulder with people who just don't feel heard. I'm not in their shoes, but I can see their laces.

What will you do with your access, if you get it? Will you remember those on the outside? Will you speak up for them? Will you find ways to amplify their voices so they can speak for themselves?

Or will you do something else?

Evaluating perspectives

I recently finished reading Zealot by Reza Aslan (a creative writing professor, trained historian and adherent to Islam) and The Resurrection of the Son of God by NT Wright (an Anglican bishop and controversial New Testament scholar). Both authors spend hundreds of pages writing about Jesus, his legacy and what people believed about him. Both authors cite research and make arguments. Both authors write compellingly.

But they wildly disagree.

They can both be wrong in their opinions, but they can't both be right.

How do we evaluate what they have to say?