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.
So—in light of Jesus’ example—how should we deal with being “foreigners and exiles”? How do we cope with being marginalised as the people of God? Do we give in to the pressure of the world to conform—to think and speak and act like the rest of society? No.
4:1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. 2 As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.
We don’t live for the approval of our peers or Instagram likes or the acceptance that comes from keeping up with our workmates’ rate of alcohol consumption at the pub on Friday night. (And I know the pain of nursing your second Crown Lager for the evening while everyone else has had at least ten, and finds pretty much everything oh so hilarious.)
3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4 They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. Count that as a good thing! Wear it as a badge of honour. After all, they don’t know God, so their disapproval is a sign you’re doing the right thing.
About a decade ago, former opposition leader, and until-recently-unhinged-political-commentator Mark Latham published his political diaries. In it, he unloaded on just about anyone he ever worked with. I recall someone from the Labor party being asked his reaction to Latham’s criticism of him. He said something like: “If Mark Latham disagrees with me, it’s an indication I must be doing something right.” That’s what Peter is saying here: if idolatrous pagans who don’t know God are abusing you—take it as a sign you’re on the right track.
5 But those who abuse you for this will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this is the reason the gospel, God’s saving plan, was preached—by the prophets of old—even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.
7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Take this stuff seriously, as the time is short and the consequences eternal.
8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. That’s what’s supposed to be attractively different about you as a minority group—you love one another, you forgive one another, you don’t let hurts (whether big or small) derail your purpose or divide your community.
9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Delight in serving others rather than seeing it as a duty. In fact, 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. So don’t be careless with your words. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.