We’re reading the first epistle of Peter over two weeks, with brief explanations and applications. The Bible text (NIV 2011) is in blue, so you can tell what bits are Scripture and what bits are my explanations.
In light of our new identity as people who don’t belong anymore to this world, but belong to God, how should we live? Peter continues:
11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles—as marginalised people who no longer belong—I urge you to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.
12 Live such good lives among the wider world that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. Be different, yes. But not in a dorky Christian kind of way. Be attractively different. Be the kind of marginalised minority that people at the very least might grudgingly respect—if not admire.
13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. To prime ministers and premiers. To police and bureaucrats. To bosses and teachers and parents. Why?
15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Even while they marginalise you, be the best citizens of your country you can be. Give them no reason—other than the gospel—to complain about you.
16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Demonstrate that true freedom means not living for self, but living for something far greater than self.
17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. Don’t just retreat into a Christian ghetto that deals with your minority status by ignoring the outside world. Engage with it positively, while remaining attractively different.
18 Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. Office workers, be just as diligent whether your boss is understanding or uncaring; whether incompetent or worthy of respect. It’s a sign you acknowledge authority, which ultimately comes from God.
19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? Don’t blame all of your trials at work or at school on being a marginalised follower of Jesus—maybe you’re just plain lazy, or selfish, or difficult to get along with. But, if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.
21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. As the prophet Isaiah said,
22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
So when you are mocked or left out or abused at work for being a follower of Christ, and for living by his standards, not the world’s—remember, you’re simply doing what Jesus did. And he trusted that God would vindicate him.