The Christian in civil society – Part 1
Like every other faithful minister of the gospel, Peter was concerned about the believers’ Christian life. Practical Christian living is as important as the sound doctrine taught in God’s Word. The undeniable evidence that we believe sound doctrine is that we live in conformity to God’s Word. In these verses, Peter instructs believers on their responsibilities as sojourners on earth, as citizens in a nation and as servants working under some masters. He speaks on the believer’s spiritual inner life, his submission to constituted authority in the society and his service, as he earns his living in a legitimate way.
If people around us are to be drawn to the Lord, we must let the light of the gospel shine through us. An unbelieving writer once challenged Christians, saying, ‘show me your redeemed life, then I might be inclined to believe in your Redeemer’. Sinners do not understand the gospel; our lives can be the means of seeing the gospel clearly, thereby being drawn to desire genuine salvation. If they do not see any difference between our so-called new life and their conduct, they will not be drawn to the Saviour to be born again.
“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims.” Christians are not properly citizens of this world, as our citizenship is in heaven. Partakers of the riches of heaven, we are pilgrims on earth. Being sons of the King of heaven, we are strangers here. We are foreigners here on earth and our heart and affection should be on our eternal home. We have no permanent home on earth, we are mere sojourners and we are travelling to our eternal home in heaven. We should not be so attached to anything on earth that we would lose the desire to go to heaven.
We are called to separation. “Abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). We must not, we cannot be entangled or encumbered with this world’s affairs, which draw souls away from God. A traveller takes along as few things as possible, so that he can make rapid progress in his journey to his final home. “Fleshly lusts,” carnal appetites, sinful passions and desires, sins and works of the flesh, sensual indulgence and pleasures war against the soul, defeat and deaden the soul, defile and disqualify us from reaching the Promised Land. The world is given to the flesh and its pleasures, but Christians must abstain and flee from anything that blunts the moral sense, pollutes the memory, defiles the imagination, weakens the conscience and hardens the heart. The world is dirty, but we must remain clean, different and separate.
“Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles.” The word “conversation” means (in the original) conduct, character, way of living, manner of life. The original word for “honest” means good, lovely, winsome. The Christian, by his life, is to advertise and commend Christ to the world around him. We are to live upright and consistent lives, let our light so shine that unbelievers will glorify our heavenly Father and be willing to receive Christ as their Saviour. They may “speak against us as evildoers,” but our “good works” and righteous lives should be radiant enough to put our critics to silence. The world is watching the way we live out our new life in Christ.
The Spirit of God can use our honest, upright lifestyle to convict sinners and make them “glorify God in the day of visitation” – either in the day, when God visits them to call them to salvation, or in the day when God visits them to bring them to judgment; and they will have no excuse.
Further Reading (King James Version) 1 Peter 2:11-20; 1 Peter 2:11,12; 1:1,17; Psalm 119:19,54; 2 Timothy 2:22; Romans 8:13; Galatians 5:19-21,24; Ephesians 4:22-24; Philippians 4:8; Matthew 5:16.