This is the sixth in a series on 1 Peter. The series begins here.
Oh, you’re here? That title today didn’t scare you away? Good.
Growing up under a tradition of preaching that emphasized a long and heavy list of dos and don’ts, it took many years until I came to see that God’s idea of calling His children to live a holy life is quite different than our ideas of you must and you must not … or else!
God calls His children to a way of life that shows His goodness and His light. We are His temple, His priests, His nation. We live differently than the rest of the world because we belong to a different world.
We model God’s idea of a life well-lived. “Being holy” doesn’t mean being flawless and perfect. It means being devoted to God’s way.
That’s easy enough to say, but Peter throws in examples that immediately make us bristle and step back and throw up many objections and defenses.
Yet God says, In everything you do, reflect who I am. Get rid of the old. Live the new life born of My Spirit. Model My new way of life, so different than the empty way of living you inherited from your ancestors.
Now, down to the nitty-gritty.
Even before Peter explains how we are to be God’s temple here on earth, he addresses the matter of our attitudes. Doing away with the old way of life, living a life dedicated to God’s way, will necessitate shedding of some old and comfortable habits.
Did you think carefully about the list of things Peter calls us to get rid of? His list of “evil behavior” in Chapter 2, verse 1, does not include acts of murder, adultery, stealing, or blasphemy. No, his list includes temptations we have every day: unkind speech, jealousy, deceit, hypocrisy.
Those attitudes have no place in a holy life, in the household of God.
“Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.” (3:9).
Spirit, scrub us!
And then Peter tackles several prickly subjects. As we read these, we find ourselves balking and saying, “But ….But … “
First, there’s the matter of respecting all human authority. BUT… what if our “king” doesn’t deserve respect? What if authority is actually battling against good, even to the point of death? What if the authority in our land is spearheading genocide?
Then there’s the matter of slaves accepting authority with all respect. Wait. Slavery? How could these words possibly be applicable today? (In our outraged denunciation of this practice, let’s not gloss over the many poorly disguised forms of slavery our Western society is guilty of tolerating.)
Wives accepting the authority of husbands? Submission is almost as taboo as slavery these days. And what’s this advice to be unconcerned about how we look and present ourselves? We’ve all pretty much bought into the idea that a woman’s worth is tied up with her physical appearance.
Finally, we get to 3:7. Husbands, treat your wives as equals. Now, there’s an idea that seems good—at least to part of the population today!
Ah, yes. We have such knee-jerk reactions to these subjects, don’t we? And the conditioned reaction is exactly what Peter is talking about in 2:11 – the worldly thinking that wages war against our very souls.
Aren’t all of those reactions programmed by our current cultural mindset? The culture around us, human reasoning, popular thinking, even what we now call political correctness—all of this is part of the world’s war against our souls, the tactic that attempts to dictate how we think and act in these (and other) situations. And that mindset reads these Scriptures and thinks that they can’t possibly be relevant today.
But these reactions are not unique to our time and generation.
Peter’s first audience might have been just as incredulous at these parts of the letter as we are. Their emperor was throwing them to the lions! Their society operated on an entrenched tradition of slavery and women treated like property. When this letter was first read to Christians in Asia, it may have elicited some of the same doubtful responses that we hear today.
Are we brave enough to ask that our blindness be healed?
Are we willing to let the Spirit break us out of the thinking the world has pounded into us, and hear what God is saying through Peter’s words?
The message is that we do not look to our culture for guidance on how we are to conduct ourselves in these situations and relationships. We look to Jesus Christ. The Spirit of Christ will mold our thinking in a completely different way than the world. We’re God’s temple here. We are His holy nation. We are to live His way of life, not the world’s.
And, in highly-charged situations like these examples, Jesus’ way of thinking is quite different from the world’s.
Peter warns against the world’s thinking. “Be on guard against those things that wage war against your soul.” Culture wages war against God’s household, and one of its most effective weapons are lies that sound reasonable and proper and relevant… lies that sound like truth.
I don’t know all the ways in which these passages might mold our lives today. I have trouble with even the first, simplest one—respecting all authority. Ummm. My head wants to offer a host of good reasons for wiggling out of this admonition.
And yet, there it is. We’re a holy nation. God is calling us to a radically different way of thinking and living. God says, “My household must live differently. My household must be holy in everything it does. Dedicated to me and my way of life.”
We’re called to be the temple of God. His holy nation. Our thinking must be molded by the Spirit of Christ, not by the mind of the world around us. And in these passages, the mind of Christ resists and refutes the mind of our culture.
Serving each other
Then there is the marvelous promise of a gift given to everyone who belongs to this holy nation, a gift given just like a cherry atop an ice cream sundae.
God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 4:10-11).
Beautiful! You’ve been given a gift. A way in which you can best help others. Use it well, in this life devoted to God, and it will bring Him glory.
Holy in everything we do.
We’re called to a way of life. Do away with the old attitudes. Live honorable lives. Let the mind of Christ lead you. Stand guard against the things that wage war on your soul.
We’ve been called by God to be His holy nation. May we live our lives, devoted to that heritage.