Explore the Bible: 1 Peter 4:1-11
The lifestyle of a committed Christian should look much different from the lifestyle of someone who is still living according to their own standards. Sadly, this isn’t the case in our society anymore. Polls about attitudes and practices consistently show that professing Christians, even evangelicals, live in a way that is barely distinguishable from the world around them. There is an attraction that sin holds that can tempt any of us to stray from God’s standards. The lure is the same as it was in the Garden of Eden: to be like God, determining for ourselves what we will do.
Peter reminds his readers that their lives have changed in this passage. The time that they lived as pagans in the past is more than enough time to have indulged in sin. This isn’t a comment on the quantity of sin that is expected of the unbeliever; instead, it is a comment that any time spent in sin is more than enough time. In light of the change brought by Jesus, sin is to be a past practice. While we know that in this life we never achieve perfection, we should be more and more drawn to following Jesus and to turning away from the sins that we practiced in our past.
The list of sins in this passage is typical of the lists we see in other New Testament passages, and is not meant to be a comprehensive list of sins but a list of sins that typically reflected pagan practices. Overindulgence in food, wine, and sex were rampant throughout the Roman world, and people generally expected their friends and neighbors to participate in wild parties. When Christians did not, it surprised those around them, and maybe even made them a little suspicious of what they were up to. It certainly would lead to pressure being put on the Christians to conform to the world around them.
Now read that last paragraph again, except change “pagan practices” to “American culture.” I joked with my group studying this passage that verse 3 sounds just like college life! In many ways, our culture is reverting to the ethics and morality of the pagan cultures that thrived around the early church. We’re told that humanity is essentially good and getting better, but when we look at what people actually do we see this isn’t so.
So what are we as Christians to do in light of the “paganization” of our culture? We need to do what Peter encourages the readers in his day to do: to live out our faith consistently in the eyes of the world. It won’t be easy, and we should expect opposition when we challenge the world’s value system, but we need to show Jesus Christ to a desperately sinful world. This is what the early Christians did, and it was their lives, even more than their words, that caught the attention of their unbelieving neighbors. We can’t afford any longer to have the church look like the world.
Both our lives and our words should speak of Jesus every day. The time for sin is past, and we need to commit ourselves to living more for our Lord every day. We will stumble, but as we live, serve, and witness together, we will help each other grow to be like our Savior, and we will bring a message of truth, love, and hope to those around us.