Helmets, seat belts, bullet proof vests, insurance, handguns, and home security systems are all means we use to protect ourselves. The adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” has proven itself worthy time and time again. We want our homes, families, and health preserved, shielded from potential danger. What about our inward selves?
It’s possible for us to become a spiritual casualty. We can fall away. Peter urges us as Christians to take the necessary steps to protect ourselves in 1 Peter 2:11-12. One is negative and the other is positive, but both are necessary!
Abstain from fleshly lusts (11)!
We must do this because of who we are (“pilgrims and strangers”). We must realize where we’re from and where our home is (cf. Heb. 11:13-16). In a moral and spiritual sense, we have a higher law. We don’t see right and wrong, fair and unfair, the way the world does. Our ethics, morals, and our principles are derived from God rather than men (Acts 5:29).
We must do this because of what they are (“fleshly lusts”). Peter is addressing base physical desires, things like he discusses in 1 Peter 4:3. These are things the world engages in that can do physical damage, but they certainly lead us away from God. They are morally wrong in God’s eyes and are destructive desires. God knows there are things that harm us, hurt our influence, and are hated by His holy heart.
We must do this because of what they do to you (“wage war against your soul”). Just as desiring the sincere milk of the word (2:1-2) gives you a taste for God’s kindness, satisfying fleshly lusts will destroy your soul.
What a valuable guidelines God gives us as we evaluate an activity, a means of entertainment, who to befriend, an indugence—whatever it is. We should ask, “Where is this thing or person leading me, toward God or away from Him?” Instead of debating our Christian liberty or looking for loopholes to pursue something we crave or desire, we would do well to analyze it through the prism of Peter’s petition in verse 11.
Keep your behavior excellent (12)!
Moral and holy behavior does more than just protect our souls. It reaches others. You are being watched on the job, at school, and everywhere you go. More people are guided by your influence than you realize. How many measure right and wrong by your example? They may not the Bible, but they know you. By your wise and righteous conduct, who knows how many you may lead to Christ? Ultimately, there will be people who stand on the Lord’s right hand at the judgment because you led them there by excellent behavior. So many people are looking for the purpose and meaning of life, and as Christians we know what it is. As we consistently live it out before them, they will want to know more about that way.