To this point, the second chapter of Peter’s letter has been very encouraging to his readers. That trend will continue with these two verses, encouraging believers to live their lives to bring glory to God.
You can read this for yourself in 1 Peter 2:11-12.
When Peter wrote his letters, as with all the biblical writings, they did not break them down into chapters and verse. It was all one long letter, perhaps with space between the paragraphs, perhaps not. That makes it somewhat difficult to determine the context of a passage at times.
This week’s passage is an example of that dilemma. The NIV, among other translations, places this paragraph as the summary of the preceding passages, seeing it as more encouragement to live as chosen people. However, it may just as easily fit into the coming text about submitting to the governing authorities. It almost makes more sense to approach it this way than otherwise. In the remainder of this chapter, Peter addresses how to live in relation to the government, how slaves are to relate to their masters, and how husbands and wives are to relate to one another. In all of these cases, the emphasis is drawn to Christians relating to non-Christians.
In light of that, this passage takes on a whole new depth, as Peter asks his readers to abstain from sinful desires and allow the light of God to shine through their lives. In fact, his opening phrase, “Dear friends,” almost seem to indicate a change in focus in his writing, suggesting that this is a new thought.
Peter states again that believers are aliens and strangers in this world. We do not belong here; we are just passing through on our way to our eternal home. His description is reminiscent of Genesis 23:4, where Abraham describes himself in the same manner, while living among the Hittites. Peter’s point here is clear. We are strangers and exiles upon this earth. Our citizenship is elsewhere.
Next, Peter encourages his readers to avoid sinful desires. We are not to take on the cultural values and morals of this world. We are to live differently. Peter’s initial readers lived in an very pagan environment. In many ways, it was very hostile to Christianity, and the temptation to conform would have been very strong. Likewise, we live in a world that is increasingly hostile to Christianity. We must allow his light to shine through us as we make choices consistent with the Word of God.
Why should we do this? Why did Peter encourage the believers of his day to do this? Because people are watching. Peter makes it clear that we are being observed. And when we live our lives in a way that brooks no wrong, people notice that. When we live our lives in such a way that we consistently make the right choices, people see that. And our lives of holiness will give them cause to praise God one day as well.
That is a hard thing to do, especially in the face of a culture that is antagonistic towards Christianity. It is difficult to allow Christ to shine through us and stand out as different. It is much easier to simply go with the flow, and not make waves. It is easier to conform than to be transformed (Romans 12:2). But that is not our task. Our task is to let our lives shine in such a way that people notice it. And they will know the reasons why behind the way we live.
Throughout the centuries, Christians have always been the ones to stand against an evil culture. In ancient Rome, when babies were being abandoned, Christian stepped up and took them into their homes, raising them. In the Middle Ages, when the black plague was sweeping across Europe, Christians were often the only ones willing to step in and care for the sick, often to the detriment of their own health, rather than just allow them to die alone. And today, Christians are the moving force opposing the killing of the unborn, the ones seeking to help the elderly, the ones bringing aid to the hungry and poor around the world.
Those are the big things. You and I are called to do those things too. But we are also called to let the light of Christ shine though our actions in the little things of life as well. We are called to bring a meal to a neighbor when he is sick, to give to the poor in our community, to assist those who are in need, both within the church and outside of it. We are to let that light shine, because our actions are as important as our words in proclaiming the grace of Jesus.
It’s our task. Do not shrink from it.
Question: How does your light shine in your corner of the world? Can people see Christ in you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.