Be careful how you live among your unbelieving neighbors. Even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will believe and give honor to God when he comes to judge the world. — 1 Peter 2:12
Traveling overseas can be nerve-racking for those who are inexperienced. Communication is difficult, customs are strange, and currency is confusing. The U.S. State Department regularly publishes bulletins explaining the conditions prevailing in various countries, warning people against traveling in some of them and advising them how to behave in others. Careful attention to what these bulletins say can save the traveler a lot of grief.
The apostle Peter wrote similar instructions to friends living in circumstances that were less than convivial and, at times, downright dangerous. He said, “Dear brothers and sisters, you are foreigners and aliens here. So I warn you to keep away from evil desires because they fight against your very souls” (1 Peter 2:11). Peter was aware of very real physical dangers, but his primary concern was to warn the people about spiritual evils to which they would be exposed. He was concerned for the safety of their souls more than the safety of their bodies.
The enemies Peter identified first were enemies within, not without. Peter’s readers would undoubtedly run into people full of evil designs, but he was primarily concerned about the dangers posed by evil desires in their own hearts. No doubt Peter agreed with his friend James, who explained, “God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else either. Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires. These evil desires lead to evil actions, and evil actions to death. So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters” (James 1:13-16).
But there were outside dangers, too. So Peter added, “Be careful how you live among your unbelieving neighbors. Even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will believe and give honor to God when he comes to judge the world” (1 Peter 2:12). Perhaps Peter was being optimistic when he assured his friends that their unbelieving neighbors would “give honor to God.” Not all citizens of a country take kindly to foreigners, and not all unbelievers in the world respond positively to the faithful!
The authorities put Peter to death not long after he penned these words. As a result, his statement that state officials exist to “punish all who do wrong and to honor those who do right” (2:14) must have raised questions from the young believers living in perilous times. But it is just another example of the trials about which Peter earlier spoke (1:5-7) and of the “unfair treatment” that believers sometimes have to face (2:19).
Whether the enemies are within our own hearts, in government offices, or next door, the calling of the Christian is clear: live “good lives,” “show respect for all” and exhibit “honorable behavior.” This will go a long way for God’s kingdom—whether at home or abroad.
For further study: 1 Peter 2:9-17
Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.