Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
1 Peter 2:11-12
Verses 11 and 12 are again transition into the next section of Peter’s letter, transition that is of particular interest to us today. Peter’s general context here is that we are in this world of Mankind at the present, but we are citizens of a heavenly Kingdom that is not of this world at all, thus we are foreigners and exiles. Oh no, we are not exiles from the heavenly Kingdom, we are exiles from this world. As such, we are here representing that heavenly Kingdom of which we are citizens.
Have you ever visited a foreign country? When you did so, did you behave as unofficial representatives of your own country and adopt your best behavior, or were you a jerk? We Americans have sometimes been described as “ugly Americans” in other countries because apparently, we don’t behave well when we travel. I don’t know if that is true or not… when I visit other countries I am on my best behavior… but I have seen how we are usually portrayed on British television and I must say if Americans are really like that in Britain, they don’t act the way we do at home! Suffice it to say that Peter is going in much the same direction that Paul went when he spoke of us as Ambassadors of Christ.
The other side of this “strangers and exiles” metaphor is that we really don’t belong to this world any more, and as such we need to let the priorities of this world go by the wayside.
This is what Peter is referring to when he says that we should abstain from “sinful desires that wage war against your soul”. Sin is over. Slavery to sin is over, and it has no hold on us any more… our chains are gone; we have been set free from the law of sin and death! So why must we insist on holding onto sin? Peter’s alternative is that we should so conduct ourselves, that the un-Christian world we live in may come to belief when they see how we live.
There is one other point we should consider here. Notice that Peter says, though they accuse you of doing wrong. Have you ever read any of the posts here on WordPress that are posted by atheists? I refer to the ones that are openly using the label “atheist.” If so, you have no doubt noticed two things, first that they usually have no understanding of the Bible, and often feel quite free to openly misrepresent it. The other thing is that many are self-appointed experts on what is and what is not “Christian” when it comes to behavior. They are looking for any slip-up on our part in our personal conduct to justify their own opinions and condemn Christianity. I guess there’s nothing new under the sun, since Peter saw the same thing in the first century pagans.
So, here we are, strangers in a strange land, citizens of a heavenly Kingdom, representing our King… let’s act like it, and show the world what Christ’s love looks like in action.