“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which 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 Peter2v 11-12
The passage is a great encouragement by Peter to followers of Christ. He reminds us and encourages us that our heritage and citizenship is not of this world but is rather a heavenly one. As such, our words, deeds and actions must always be consistent with our heritage. Our lives in public and private must be aligned to our profession as Christians.
Though living in a different country, foreigners very often still maintain customs, ways of thinking and ways of doing things that are unique to their own culture and their own heritage. After all, this forms part of their identity, who they are and how they define themselves and it is this that makes them stand out even though they live in a foreign country.
As followers of Christ, living in this world, Peter reminds us that our situation is no different. While we live in this world, we must always remind ourselves of our true heritage – children of God, citizens of heaven. It is also a sober reminder that the time spent here is temporary and that ultimately we are merely passing through as we journey back to our real home.
Understanding our identity in Christ helps us to better resist the attractions and distractions of this world and knowing our citizenship reminds us not to get caught up in the customs and culture of this world.
As followers of Christ and strangers in this world, we must stand out in the way we live our lives, in the things we say and the things we do. We must see ourselves as citizens of heaven and our actions must reveal our true citizenship to those around us. Our lives must so reflect our citizenship that we truly stand out as light in a darkening world.
Even Jesus reminds us of this – “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden…In the same way let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5 v14-16
Our thoughts, our words, ours actions, how we treat everyone around us (believers and non-believers alike) can either bring glory to God or take glory away from Him. We must live what we profess so that we give no one any opportunity to discredit our Saviour; but rather through how we live our lives, our Saviour becomes real to everyone around us and His power is made manifest through us.
We must persistently endeavour to live our lives in this context knowing that one day we will not only return home but that like every single human being on the planet, we stand before God and will be give an account of every word, every action, every thought and every deed.
As the saying goes, “If your friends or colleagues suddenly found out that you were a Christian, would it surprise them?”
STAND FOR CHRIST, ALWAYS IN LOVE.
Does that mean that in the name of “love” “open-mindedness”, “forward-thinking” and “loving thy neighbour”, we should sanction the lifestyle, life choices and behaviours of those around us when those lifestyles are in direct opposition to the will and word of God and when those people knowingly or unknowingly rebel against God through such lifestyles?
It means that we still maintain our stand, because our stand is not based on our feelings or opinions but rather it is based on what the word and will of God say. It means that we maintain our stand no matter the pushback and pressure we receive as a result.
However, it also means that we maintain our stand, always in love and never out of a motivation to prove a point to others. Christ does not need us to argue His case for Him. He does want us to follow His example of reflecting love even when we are being criticised for standing on His word and rejecting the world’s way of thinking and doing things.
We must stand on His word and point to Christ, in love, those who would be otherwise destined for eternal separation from God, without Christ. We must stand against the pressures, criticisms and opposition of the world in love, because, before we came to Christ, we also made choices and lived by values that directly rebelled against the word and will of God.
We must always remember that before we came to Christ, we were also part of the world. As Christ showed us love even when we were unworthy, rebelled against Him, and rejected Him, we also must show the same love to others who oppose and reject us for our commitment to God and the desire to live by His word and will.
It is by responding in love to opposition and criticism (as we remain firm to God’s word and will) that we reflect our light in a dark world. It is by responding in love while unshaken that we reflect our true citizenship.
It is by responding in love, while unshaken that we make Christ real to those around us.