The idea that we are living in a Christian culture is one that is becoming increasingly difficult to substantiate. In place of the God of the Bible, 21st-century North America largely worships a pantheon of -isms: individualism (worship of self), humanism (worship of humanity), hedonism (worship of pleasure), and materialism (worship of stuff).
Surrounded by this level of idolatry, Christianity is becoming more and more marginalized and labeled as an ideology for the simple and unintellectual.
The question is, what should be the response of God’s people to this increasingly inhospitable culture?
This isn’t our first rodeo
A first-century group of believers were asking the same question. The culture in which they lived ridiculed their hope, looked at their faith with disdain, and mocked their morality and ethics. There was little doubt: Christians were outsiders. And these men and women of God wanted to know—just as we do today—how to respond in this environment.
Do we take up arms and fight? Do we run and hide? Do we try and assimilate?
The Apostle Peter, hearing the groans of this group of believers (and the Holy Spirit anticipating ours today), picked up his pen and parchment and wrote them a letter of encouragement. In this letter he said:
Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbours. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honourable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.1 Peter 2:11–12
Advice worth heeding
There are a few things to notice about the Apostle’s advice. First, Peter encourages believers to keep perspective. He calls them “temporary residents and foreigners,” reminding them, and us, that our true home is not of this world (Hebrews 13:14). We are merely “passing through” these parts on our way somewhere greater and more comfortable.
Second, while surrounded by those who do not believe, Peter urges Christians to live above reproach. We are to “keep away from worldly desires.” Paul was on the same page as Peter and modelled for others the self-disciplined of living a godly life (1 Corinthians 9:27).
Third, Christians are called to live “properly” among those who do not believe. The NIV renders this command more simply: “Live such good lives among the pagans.” Live lives that are marked by the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23), that are filled with joy and hope, compassion and love, purity and holiness. Peter charges disciples of Jesus Christ to live lives like that. Why? Because it’s through “such good lives” that those watching will be convicted, challenged, and hopefully saved.
What should be the response of God’s people to a culture that is growing more and more inhospitable? According to Peter, we are to live such good lives among the pagans that they have no choice but to acknowledge that we have something they want and need.
They’re always watching
Are you a long-faced Christian? Do you grumble when you attend church and talk about your faith? Are you apathetic when it comes to corporate worship and Bible study? Are you, as Chuck Swindoll says, a Christian who looks “like they’ve been baptized in lemon juice”?
Let’s recalibrate ourselves. Let’s live good lives. The unbelieving world around us needs us to! And, they’re watching.