How Should We Then Live?
I often find myself out of step with those around me.
I feel more like a stranger and alien in society, wondering how to live as a Christ-follower in a world that increasingly opposes Jesus’ teachings.
Throughout church history, Christians have struggled to answer the question: “How should we then live?”
Are we to contest injustices even to the point of violence?
Should we be quiet and restrained, willing to suffer or even die if society insists on forcing us to relinquish our beliefs?
Is it best to take more aggressive action, become political activists — attack the media, and assault liberalism, secularism, conservatism, or pluralism?
My well-meaning Christian brothers and sisters respond in all of these ways. Some are angry, and others have become extremely vocal. Many refuse to say anything. Depending on the day and subject, any of the above alternatives may feel right.
But does our “feeling” justify our response — or lack of action?
And is there only one path of action that is right as a Christ-follower?
Are we to separate ourselves from society, contending that the church is a separate institution? Are we to remain passive concerning governing affairs? Are we to live so detached from our world that our life example has no influence?
Or, should we be reformists? Are we to assume there is no distinction between God’s purpose for Christ-followers and society? Is it our role to reform culture? And, is it conceivable to think our efforts can somehow eliminate self-destructive behavior?
Are we to become activists leading boycotts and marches? Is it right to protest to the point of violence to correct injustices?
Is it possible that the above postures might all be appropriate, depending on a given circumstance? If so, how then are we to live?
We’re not the only ones who have felt as if they didn’t “fit in.” In the first century, Peter wrote a letter addressing how followers of Christ are to live within a Roman-led government.
There’s no question that first-century culture looks very different than the twenty-first century. Believers then faced unique challenges that may have required a different response than today.
Also, technological and medical advancements alone have radically changed our landscape. But while our world and circumstances are profoundly different than theirs, the question remains relevant: “How should we then live?”
Like Christ-followers today, Christians in Peter’s world also felt as if they didn’t “fit in.” His opening words confirm their feelings that they were different:
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ: To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia…” -1 Peter 1:1 [Emphasis mine].
He reminds them that they are elect (chosen) exiles (aliens and temporary residents). Like us, they also struggled to know how to live out their faith and calling.
Whether you choose to be passive regarding governing affairs, pro-active as an activist or champion the cause of reforming society, Peter’s instructions are timely for each of us.
We are to live, hopefully.
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” - 1 Peter 1:13 (ESV)
Remember, Christ-followers are temporary residents in this world. We focus on Christ — who is our hope — not government.
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct…”
- 1 Peter 1:14–15 (ESV)
We are to live honorably and holy. Our conduct is to be different than the world and reflect the One who called us.
Okay, I admit: My actions at times fall short of reflecting God’s holiness. None of us are perfect. But Peter’s reminder reconnects me with the model I desire to emulate.
We are to live with a reasonable fear (1 Peter 1:17-21).
Not every fear is constructive to our life. However, a reverent, respectful, and awe-inspired fear of God is beneficial. Recognizing that God is the perfect judge helps transform my demands for justice to trust, knowing that God will measure out justice in his way and time.
We are to live lovingly (1 Peter 1:22-25).
We are to demonstrate sincere love from a pure heart — even to those with whom we disagree. It’s impossible to speak words of kindness to others while cursing them.
Whether we live in Asia Minor, Armenia, or Arizona, we must live hopefully, with honor and holiness, with reverence of God, and with love.
Whether our situation calls us to be an activist, reformist, or separatist — may our conduct always reflect God — who has chosen us as His “elect exiles.”
Do you notice the busyness of life? Does your desire for spiritual refreshment become overshadowed because of the distractions of life? Sometimes, all it takes is a 5-minute pause to reconnect, recalibrate our spiritual compass, and refresh the soul.
A Simple Pause is a free app developed by my colleague in ministry, LuAnn Roberson. I encourage you to check it out. It’s a beautiful way to connect with God in a busy world. You can download it here: asimplepause.org