1 Peter #7 1 Peter 2:11-17 Exemplary
Peter is encouraging believers to live a spiritually thriving life. He has told us that it’s spiritually dangerous to cozy up to the world. The world describes any culture that has turned its back on God. Believers are to be passing through. Peter wrote that it is by indulging our ego that we cozy up to the world, making the world our home. Segwaying from this truth we spent time delving into doctrine, learning the path to master egoism. If you’re tired of your best intentions being hijacked, and you desire to live a devout and holy life yet there are times when you choose to do so, but don’t, then review teaching #6.
I don’t want to bore you with repetition but this is so important for our spiritual growth. Peter opened his letter praying that grace and peace be yours in abundance (1 Peter 1:2 (NIV). Grace is God's unmerited gift of the desire to be and the power to do. The desire to be the person God created you to be and the power to become that individual is what grace is all about. God’s grace can be categorized and understood as prevenient grace, the grace that God uses to awaken you to your spiritual need and draw you to Himself. Justifying grace allows an outsider to be reconciled to God. When a person acknowledges that they are a sinner in need of saving, believes that Jesus is the Savior they need, commits to following Jesus, and then asks God to save them, in that instant justifying grace empowers the reconciliation, the new birth, the Holy Spirit takes up residence within you, and you are now a Christ follower. God declares you to be holy, you are now one of the Chosen People. When the Holy Spirit resides within, the Spirit applies sanctifying grace that begins to transform you into Christ’s likeness. Finally, there is glorifying grace that makes it possible for you to enter eternity. Grace the desire to be and the power to do comes to us in four ways: prevenient grace, calls us into a right relationship with God; justifying grace, reconciles us into a right relationship with God; sanctifying grace transforms us into the likeness of Jesus; and glorifying grace that allows us to enter into eternity.
As you choose to partner with the Holy Spirit sanctifying grace continues to transform your thinking and your behaviors. With justifying grace God declared you holy. With sanctifying grace God is making you into the holy person He declared you to be. As you mature in the faith the Holy Spirit makes you aware of the tug-of-war going on in your thinking (Galatians 5:17). Being like Jesus conflicts with egoism. It is like a battle between selflessness and selfishness. It is like two generals arguing about what will be the best course of action for you. Most of the time you’re living a life pleasing to God, but even though you do not want to, you find yourself on occasion with wrong attitudes, thoughts, and deeds that are all contrary to the way of love. This realization of your inconsistency creates a godly sorrow, for you realize you are deterring, damaging, and possibly destroying the relationships in your life. You’ve hurt the one who loves you the most (Psalm 51:4). You want to change so bad it hurts. So, you present yourself to God as a living sacrifice, consecrating your life to His service, and that sincere cry of your heart is answered by the Holy Spirit who gives you the power to master sin (Romans 12:1). No longer can egoism hijack your best intentions, now you choose, you are free, and you choose the way of love (Galatians 5:16). Our faith community’s doctrine calls this entire sanctification. The word entire means that you are entirely empowered to overcome egoism.
From doctrine, we need to move back into the scripture. Disciples of Jesus are made holy and called to be holy. That call to be holy is living out a devout and holy life in this world. Because you are keeping in step with the spirit, you will live an exemplary life that influences others to bend their knee to Jesus (John 13:55). In our teaching, we will discover that Peter has given us specifics as to how to live this out in a world that is not our home.
At this time Christians were considered troublemakers. They were atheists. Believing in only One God and not the patron deities of the various villages, towns, and cities. They were rebels, giving their allegiance to a new Lord, no longer Ceasar, now Jesus. They disrupted the social order by making everyone equal, the rich the power, the free the slave, the husband the wife, and the children. Later they were accused of cannibalism, as they would eat the flesh and drink the blood of their Savior. Later they were charged with immorality because of outsiders' assumptions that their love feasts were orgies. These kinds of accusations, suspicions, gossip, and rumors, create prejudice.
You can imagine fathers ordering their family members to not associate with those kinds of people. Proprietors refusing to do business with those kinds of people. Employers refuse to hire those kinds of people. Community authorities profile, and keep an eye on those kinds of people, maybe even forcing those kinds of people to live in certain areas of town. Imagine those kinds of people being barred from access to certain community events or places, denied service, and denied equal protection under the law. It wasn’t easy identifying as a Christian in those days.
It's easy to become angry when you are a member of society’s disenfranchised. Maybe your response to these injustices is doing a little vandalism; a little theft from the elites; a little rebellion against community standards, traditions, and practices; a little cheating on your taxes; maybe starting a resistance movement; maybe a little public protesting; then move on to rioting and insurrection and civil war. You want to strike back. Peter has another suggestion for God’s Chosen:
1 Peter 2:11-17 (MSG)
Friends, this world is not your home, so don't make yourselves cozy in it. Don't indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they'll be won over to God's side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.
13 Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; they are God's emissaries for keeping order. It is God's will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you're a danger to society. Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government.
Sanctifying grace makes it possible for you to live an exemplary life even amid great injustice. “An exemplary life is characterized by strong values, integrity, and a commitment to making a positive impact on others and the world. It includes elements such as living a purposeful and fulfilling life, being a responsible and active member of one's community, and striving to continuously learn and grow as a person. Additionally, an exemplary life may involve being a good role model, fostering strong relationships, and being a positive influence on those around them” (ChatGPT, Jan 23, 2023). The Holy Spirit empowers you with sanctifying grace making it possible for you to be this kind of person. Peter’s advice is to live it.
When you live a devout and holy life before others, over time they realize that you are not evil, not ignorant, not the enemy. Instead, they see the positive things you do. They see through your actions love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) and your way of life becomes attractive to them. They start to want what you have. The way you live, and the way you respond to the craziness of this world can be God’s prevenient grace to another person. God calling others to Himself through you. As you continue to love you erode their prejudices. Because of your behavior, they become won over to God’s side.
Peter tells us how to live this God-honoring way in the public sector. When it comes to our responses to the government Peter advises Christ's followers to be good citizens. A good citizen follows the rule of law, you submit to the authority of the law. The purpose of the rule of law is to protect those who do right and punish those who do wrong. Such advice can create an ethical dilemma. What are you to do if the law is wrong? What are you to do when the mandates of the government are not in keeping with your first allegiance, for remember you are a citizen of the Kingdom of God planted in the culture to be His representative. Being a good citizen doesn’t mean you become a little automaton, just blindly following the dictates of the governing authorities, but it does mean as you work to right the injustices of a society you do so in an exemplary fashion. There are times when Christians need to stand up and work together to change the law. In the recent history of “these United States,” Martin Luther King Jr, lead an exemplary protest against the injustices of an unequal society. The scripture speaks loudly:
Amos 5:24 (NIV)
But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!
What is out of harmony with God’s values, is an injustice, as good citizens believers are to work in an exemplary manner to right the wrong. There is a lot of stuff in society that we are to put up with, but there is also stuff that needs to be changed. Choose wisely.
When Christians work to create change in an exemplary manner, they prove they are not a danger to society. When Christians are busy doing good for others, not trying to promote themselves, and their organizations, but meeting the needs of others, their actions cure the ignorance of fools who see them as a detriment
Peter gives us that fine line: “Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules” (1 Peter 2:16 (MSG). When it comes to ensuring that “justice rolls on like a river” we need, as a community of believers, Holy Spirit discernment in how to take action.
An exemplary life in the public sector involves “treating everyone you meet with dignity” (verse 17). “Treating people with dignity means treating them with respect, kindness, and fairness, recognizing their inherent value as human beings. Treating people with dignity means giving them the autonomy and freedom to make their own choices and decisions, and not imposing one's own beliefs or values on them. It also means treating people with compassion, understanding, and empathy” (ChatGPT Jan 23, 2023). Allow yourself to treat yourself with dignity, doing so makes it possible for you to extend that same dignity to others, especially the others whose behavior doesn’t warrant such a response. Doing so makes you a good citizen, not only a good citizen within the culture you’ve been planted in but also in the Kingdom of God. Doing so is not easy, you must rely on the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit to help you treat people with dignity especially when you disagree with them.
Treat outsiders with dignity, love your spiritual family, revere God, and respect the government. You certainly need to be keeping in step with the Holy Spirit to accomplish this. It’s expected that you keep in step, so you are empowered to keep in step, your part is choosing to keep in step. As you do so, the accusations, the prejudices, and the fears of the outsiders are powerfully refuted by your behavior. It is by living this exemplary life that people see God through you.
The way you are to fight and overcome bad public relations is by loving. In the public sector, you love by taking a stand for justice while following the rule of law
But always remember that the rule of law, what is right and wrong, is determined by your allegiance to God. In the public sector, you overcome bad public relations by treating others with dignity. Treating others with dignity is just another aspect of how you love others.
Take this home with you. Spread it around. Become infectious with an exemplary life. Live the yes.