Thousands of years ago, the faithful remnant of the nation of Israel was sent into exile among pagan peoples. This remnant (particularly as exemplified by Daniel and his friends) lived in fidelity to the one, true God by refusing to follow the ungodly customs and morals of the societies in which they were forced to dwell.
As we have seen over the past few days, those who have trusted Christ alone for salvation are the true people of God. Even now we are being built into a spiritual house founded upon Jesus our Cornerstone (1 Peter 2:6–8). We have been ingrafted into faithful Israel and have been set apart as holy unto the Lord (vv. 9–10).
However, even though we are God’s people, we remain in exile waiting for Christ to bring us to our permanent home in the new heavens and the new earth. In today’s passage, Peter reminds us that we are exiles, and he urges us to abstain from the fleshly passions that war against our souls (v. 11). Just as earthly travellers do not generally conform themselves to the customs and traditions of the foreign lands in which they are visiting, so too must we who are travelling through this fallen world not conform our lives to sin. We are holy unto the Lord (v. 9) and must live accordingly.
Abstaining from the passions of the flesh does not mean that we completely withdraw from society. Though humanity is fallen, our bearing the image of God means that even the most depraved human being does, at least unconsciously, recognize the difference between right and wrong (Rom. 1:18–32). Because of this, Peter also tells us that we must live honorably among the Gentiles (1 Peter 2:12). We must do good deeds and submit to righteous laws even though we are only sojourners in this evil world.
Peter tells us that when we do such things, Gentiles (those who deny Christ) will recognize the good deeds of Israel (true believers) and glorify God on the day of visitation. Whether God visits the non-believer in this life through conversion, or executes judgment on him, our good works will cause those who presently deny Christ to glorify Him one day for His mercy and justice (Phil. 2:9–11).
What is your conduct like among non-believers? Are you a faithful witness of the God of Scripture to your neighbors or to your fellow employees? Or do you behave dishonorably before the world? Spend some time in prayer today, asking God to help you to be obedient to the call to live honorably in this pagan world. When tempted to act dishonorably, remember that you are a witness for Christ at all times.