What’s different about you? Your physical characteristics are probably pretty easy to spot. Are you short or tall? Do you have long hair or short? Are you younger or older? And, the list could go on…
But, the more important question is: What’s different about how you live? Are your spiritual characteristics as easy to spot? Have you ever thought about that? Do you live in a way that sets you apart from mainstream, suburban America, or are you living a life that blends in with the masses? Would your neighbors, co-workers, even family members know something was different about you just by the way you live?
As we look at our passage this week (1 Peter 2:11-25), we see that Peter is urging Christians to live lives that are different – lives that stand out from the mainstream masses. In verse 11, he calls Christians “sojourners” and “exiles” (same Greek word as 1:1). They’re travelers. They’re pilgrims. They’re just passing through. Though Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia are where they live, it’s not their home. They have a heavenly residence. As such, they are to “abstain from the passions of the flesh.” Just as earthly travelers do not conform to the customs and traditions of the foreign lands they visit, so too Christians are not to conform their lives to sin. We are holy to the Lord (v. 9) and must live our lives as such.
Likewise, Christians are to keep their conduct “honorable among the Gentiles” or non-believers. This phrase, “among the Gentiles” is key. Christians are not called to withdraw into seclusion from the world. We are to be the light of the world, and we are to let our light shine before others (Matt. 5:14, 16). Of all people, Christians welcome the opportunity to live our lives in glass houses where our words, actions and conduct are on display for the world to see.
The purpose, or goal, of living different lives is simple: so that non-believers, when they see our good deeds and when they see us living a life that is distinct from theirs, will “glorify God on the day of visitation” (v. 12). To state it another way: living a life that is different will stand out in such a way that our neighbors, co-workers and family members will begin to ask questions of us, and we will have opportunities to point them to Christ and give them a reason for the hope that is within us (1 Peter 3:15)!
So, what does this look like? How do we live our lives differently?
Peter gives us two tangible ways in our passage. First, we live lives differently in how we view the government (v. 13-17). Do you recognize that government authorities are sent by God (v. 14)? Do you believe that regardless of who occupies the Oval Office, the throne of God is occupied by the One who always rules justly?
Second, we live lives differently in how we work and how we handle unfair persecution (v. 18-20). In the context of our passage, servants are believers, and masters are not. The term Peter uses for “master” is where we get our English word, “despot.” Peter addresses Christian servants working for non-Christian masters who rule over them “harshly” (NIV) and who “endure sorrows while suffering unjustly” (v. 19). Ultimately, Christ is our example (v. 21-25) in suffering unjustly. When persecuted, when reviled, when slandered unfairly we look to Christ, the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls (v. 25), who entrusted himself to the One who judges justly (v. 23).
So, what’s different about you? For the Christian, the answer is “Jesus!” – and that changes everything, including how you live. How will you, as a sojourner and exile, live in such a way that your life – words, actions, conduct – become the means by which the gospel penetrates the hearts and minds of unbelievers so that they glorify God on the day of visitation? Live boldly; Live differently; And, pray that the Lord uses your life as a testimony to transfer many from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of his Son (Colossians 1:13; 1 Peter 2:9)!