For the next several weeks, I’ll be repeating the book of I Peter in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today.
This is not an essentially literal translation, and should be read as something of a commentary.
I Peter – Pt V
I say this because I love you: stay far away from unhealthy desires. They’re the sworn enemies of your souls, and they attack without mercy. Remember, this isn’t your permanent home. You’re strangers and outsiders on this earth. Remember this when you’re around earthly people. Make sure you behave like you’re supposed to. They’ll treat you badly and say horrible things about you since you don’t act like everyone else. Maybe they’ll notice your awesome morality and follow God themselves!
Speaking of people on earth, God wants us to obey whoever’s in charge of us (as long as it isn’t sinful). If it’s your president, obey him. Anyone acting on the president’s behalf is just as in charge. God uses them to punish bad people and praise good people. By doing what they tell us, we’re doing what God wants. Maybe we’ll even shut down the ignorant things others say about us!
It’s a jungle out there, so here’s some friendly reminders:
We’re here for a short time, not a long time (James 4.14).
God ultimately controls the outcome of November 3rd (Romans 13.1).
This earth is fallen anyway and we’re looking forward to something way better (II Peter 3.10).
We have more pressing matters to attend to (Ephesians 2.10; 4.11; Matthew 28.18ff).
We’re ambassadors, not crusaders (II Corinthians 5.11ff).
Mercy always trumps a condemning attitude (James 2.11ff). Contextually, this is about not showing favoritism based on appearance or status. A broader application concerning our attitude toward others in general is appropriate.
Our attitudes may well be what condemns or saves a lost soul (Philippians in general, but specifically 2.5-11).
Don’t be rude to people, but especially not to those in our spiritual family (Galatians 6).
What we do about our beliefs speaks far more powerfully than what we say about our beliefs, and that can be amazing or especially harmful (James 2.18).
The two Sundays Kathy and I spent in Israel were with the church in Nazareth, about two hours north of where we are staying near Jerusalem. An interesting fact in a nation where an overwhelming majority of citizens are either Jews, the largest group, or Muslims, still a significant, but smaller group, is that there is a fairly small number of those professing to be Christians. The congregation in Nazareth, which has around 40 members, is comprised almost entirely of Arab people. As I spoke with one of the men yesterday, he said something that will stay with me a long time. He talked about how Arab Christians are viewed by their fellow-citizens. If Jews sees him standing beside a Muslim, they think he’s a Muslim. As most Arabs in Israel are Muslim, that seems logical. They see him as a potential threat and enemy. But, Arabs who find out he’s a Christian, and there are so many ways to readily see he’s not a Muslim–clothing, customs, etc.–see him as infidel or even a traitor. His remarks were in response to the sermon I preached from 1 Peter 2:21-25 on how Jesus handled persecution. He says that the Arabic Christians can tend to feel like people without a country.
Now, while you and I do not share the unique circumstance of Arab Christians in Israel, there is a similarity we see from earlier in 1 Peter 2. Peter tells Christians, “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” (11-12). We’re going to “look” different, abstaining from fleshly lusts. We’re going to “act” different, keeping our behavior excellent doing good deeds. Whether we physically look like the people who observe us or we look different from them, our Christianity will be noticeable and observable. That’s not the same as doing your works in order to be seen of men (Mat. 23:5). Instead, living the Christian life–no matter what–will inevitably catch the attention of the people around us.
I’m grateful for the object lesson I received. Pray for our Arab brethren, men and women in a spiritual sense who are “without a country.” Pray for our brethren in places where their faith in Christ is scorned and more overtly persecuted. Pray for us, that we will be salt and light which stands out and stands up for Jesus in our daily places where darkness persists.