Summary: Christians should live uniquely among the unbelievers.
LIVING AMONG THE UNBELIEVERS
ILLUSTRATION The story is told of Gordon Maxwell, missionary to India, that when he asked a Hindu scholar to teach him the language, the Hindu replied:
“No, Sahib, I will not teach you my language. You would make me a Christian.” Gordon Maxwell replied, “You misunderstand me. I am simply asking you to teach me your language.”
Again the Hindu responded, “No, Sahib, I will not teach you. No man can live with you and not become a Christian.” —Selected
How does one live among the unbelievers?
1. LIVE UP TO YOUR SPIRITUAL IDENTITY (v. 11a)
The Scripture uses various spiritual identities for the followers of Christ. In relation to God the Father, His Children; in relation to Christ, His Body; and in relation to the Holy Spirit, His Temple.
But in relation to the world, Peter addressed his readers as “aliens and strangers in the world.” What does it mean?
“Aliens and Strangers” – non-citizen; temporary resident; metaphor of a Christian, whose real home is in heaven; one who lives for awhile on earth.
a. Difference in Culture and Values – the way we dress, our kind of food, our ways and behavior, our perspective of work and family life.
b. Discrimination and deprivation – we don’t have the priority in terms of benefits and socially, we are just second class individuals; no matter what emphasis the government gives on equality.
Spiritually speaking, being “aliens and strangers in the world,” we have different sets of values and cultural practices. If people find you different and weird, it is because that this world is not our world.
2. REFRAIN FROM SINFUL DESIRES (v. 11b)
Peter said that one must “abstain from sinful desires.” To abstain means to hold oneself back, to refrain, to distance oneself or separate. Abstaining from sinful desires means to voluntarily deny yourself or deliberately give up your sinful desires.
The instruction is not just to minimize but eliminate the influence of your sinful desires. Why should one abstain from sinful desires? Sinful desires wage war against our soul. Our sinful desires prevent us from knowing God. It separates us from God.
a. Futility in thinking
b. Darkened in understanding
c. Separated from the life of God
d. Lost all sensitivity
Therefore the command is “put off your old self.”
ILLUSTRATION D.L. Moody said, “I have more trouble with D.L. Moody than with any man I know.”
SEE GALATIANS 5:16-17, 24-25.
The key to “putting off our old self” is to live by the Spirit of God. We must yield to the leadership of the Holy Spirit. We must listen and follow His directions on how to live our lives here on earth.
3. KEEP UP YOUR GOOD DEEDS (v. 12)
Peter encouraged his readers to practice good deeds among the unbelievers – “live such good lives … that the unbelievers would see your good deeds and glorify God.”
ILLUSTRATION What Is Christianity?
In the home it is kindness.
In business it is honesty.
In society it is courtesy.
In work it is fairness.
Toward the unfortunate it is pity.
Toward the weak it is help.
Toward the wicked it is resistance.
Toward the strong it is trust.
Toward the fortunate it is congratulations.
Toward the penitent it is forgiveness.
Toward God it is reverence and love.
When Peter gave this instruction, the Christians were being accused of wrongdoing. What kind of charges did non-Christians make in Peter’s time?
a. Disloyalty to the state or Caesar
b. Upsetting trade or divination
c. Teaching that slaves are "free"
d. Not participating in some religious festivals
e. Holding "antisocial" values
f. Being "atheists" because they had no idols
Despite of these charges, Christians are to have “noble lifestyle” among the non-Christians. The purposes of the godly life of Christians are twofold. First, as the unbelievers take careful notice of our good works, they will not slander us. Second, in the future they will glorify God.
Peter gave some reasons we should maintain living a good life:
a. Silence the ignorance of foolish men. (1 Peter 2:15)
b. Suffering for doing good is commendable before God. (1 Peter 2:20)
c. Generally, doing good will keep us from being harmed. (1 Peter 3:13)
ILLUSTRATION Hudson Taylor said: “If your father and mother, your sister and brother, if the very cat and dog in the house, are not happier for your being Christian, it is a question whether you really are.”