11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 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
Let me start by telling you all that writing this blog causes me great stress. I am not a theologian and I am not a great student of the bible. However, I am still thankful for the opportunity to write this. We need to be “pushed” in our walk with Christ and never settle for where we are.
Of course I went to the great biblical expert, Google, for thoughts on these two verses. That was more overwhelming than helpful.
I read the verses that followed and the previous Chapter to better understand the context of the message.
Who was Peter writing to? The letter is addressed to various churches in Asia Minor suffering religious persecution. This is likely in about the year 65 A.D. so the church is in its early formation and in these areas of Asia Christians would have been a very small minority.
When Peter refers to those in the church as “foreigners and exiles” I think he means that we are all “foreigners and exiles” in this world. As new creations in Christ, we don’t belong to this world, we belong to a heavenly kingdom where we will one day reside for eternity. Wherever we travel or settle in the world, Asia or Rome, Jerusalem or Egypt, we are as Christians all “foreigners” because we are not of this world.
As such, we should not be seduced by the things this world usually cherishes: wealth, power, possessions, beauty and all of the related trappings. These are the things that wage war against our soul. If we do nothing but seek these “trappings” while here on earth we will be just like the pagans that Peter refers to in this verse. As a new creation in Christ we should be seeking the fruits of the kingdom, to love others as Christ showed us, to live a life according to Christ’s teaching of humility, compassion for others and forgiveness.
While here on earth we will be constantly seduced by the things of this world. How do we “abstain from sinful desires which wage war against [our] souls?” I think Peter’s message urges us to have pure thoughts. To reflect on what is good and not what pollutes our spirits. If al I am doing is thinking about how to get a bigger house or more money, I am not thinking about the suffering of the world, I am blind to the needs of others because I am focused on me and my needs and wants.
Every morning when we get up we have to make a choice. I can allow my thoughts to be seduced by the trappings of this world, or I can focus on the things of the kingdom. Where our thoughts go, so will our actions. Throughout the day we will struggle with this but with God’s help we will overcome. It all starts with our thoughts and our discipline to focus on what is good and of the kingdom.
Finally, I believe that Peter is urging the reader to set a good example and to live “good lives” and perform “good deeds” even in the face of persecution and rejection by others. If we only love those who love us we are not much better than the pagans. If we only forgive those who first forgive us we really don’t understand the message of Christ. We are called to be different even when it’s hard, even when we feel rejected by this world.
This Easter we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His hope for us is that the desire of our hearts for the trappings of this world will die with him on Good Friday and be replaced by the hope, joy and promise of new life offered to each of us through his resurrection on Easter.