How Should We Then Live?
“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” - Matthew 16:24-25 (ESV)
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?”
And is there only one path of action that is right as a Christ-follower?
Are we to separate ourselves from society? Are we to live so detached from our world that our life example has no influence?
Or, should we be reformists? Is it the church’s role to reform culture? Will God enable us to become a “city on a hill”?
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 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. Our primary focus is 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.
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.”
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