Section 3.2 of 1 Peter (1 Peter 2:11-12)
Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.
Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.
We are now in the third section of the First Letter of Peter. If you have been following along in your Bible during this study, you may have noticed that I am not necessarily following along the usual “titled paragraphs” that you may have in your translation. When you conduct a personal study of the texts in the Bible, it is helpful to read through the text for yourself, and place in breaks where you see the most natural breaks in the writing. This helps to organize your understanding according to how your brain is breaking down the information. While reviewing the First Letter of Peter, I found 1 Peter 2:11 to be the most natural break between subjects. Moving from section two, it appears that it is here that Peter seems to be moving from the focus on the new Christ-centered identity these believers should have, given their faith, and why they need to view it that way in light of their predicament, to a new focus.
Peter begins this section with “Beloved…” which adds the effect of a transition from one subject to another. He again refers to the recipients as “aliens and strangers,” which again, gives weight to the view of the intended recipients being Jewish Christians of the “new dispersion” we might call it (or it seems Peter is calling it) after their expulsion from Rome. He introduces the “new” focus as being about “…abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” As we continue on through this section, the focus seems to be on this idea. He introduces guidance for behavior after having described in the second section what their new identity in Christ is. Going into verse thirteen, we can also see the primary reason why he is giving them this guidance.
This verse starts out with “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles…” which would naturally beg the question of “Well what do you mean by that? How do we behave in excellence among them?” Again, there appears to be a distinct identification here where he mentions “the Gentiles” specifically, increasing the likelihood of the intended recipients being Jewish converts. Through the sub-sections of this section, Peter begins to provide examples of what he means. He then provides the reason why in light of the context of their current situation, which is their experience of persecution.
Continuing from his guidance about being “living stones” and how those who reject them do so because the word is a “…stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense…” (1 Peter 2:6-8), Peter explains why they should do this. “…so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” This will be a repeating theme throughout the body of the letter. It is clear that one of the issues that must have been brought up by the congregations is the slandering of their reputation. It is likely that this comes from the banishing of the Jews from Rome, which places Peter’s letter about 63 or 64 AD as mentioned in the introduction to this study. Now that they are Christian converts, their chose life-style in Christ is showing to be in stark contrast to the life-styles of those in whose lands they dwell. This is causing their neighbors and old friends to separate from them and is likely causing some upheaval in those areas where much business is produced out of immoral behaviors.
Peter is telling them here that through their behavior, they can impact the eternal lives of those around them. The “day of visitation” is a reference to the return of Christ in glory at the second coming, though it also hints at the Jewish Theology regarding the “end times.” Again, this suggests Jewish recipients but it may also be referring to the Gentiles and may be a strict reference to the return of Christ and what would be an understanding of the opportunity for non-believers to glorify God because of them at Christ’s return. There are many commentaries available by great Biblical Scholars across the ages which show an acknowledgment of the uncertainty regarding his use of “time of visitation.” Most seem to agree that this either means a visitation by God with His people that can be witnessed or the actual end times event. (biblehub.com)
The understanding that will pan out through the rest of this section is the understanding that, even when we are surrounded by those who would slander us, we must behave uprightly and justly so that our real actions cannot justly be called wrong. In our modern times, we are discovering that more and more the general public is being driven to view Christian culture as one that is pervasive and corrupting. People are being led to believe things such as Christians wanting to establish a Theocracy, or wanting to force our morality upon them, or even going so far as to call religion itself evil (but only with primary reference to Christianity). Today, we must continue to live our lives in a manner that disproves these wild, often politically driven claims. We must show love to our neighbors as our Lord directs, and not allow all of this slander to get under our skin and cause us to fall back to “our former lusts.” We cannot allow all of this double-speak and back-stabbing to lead what people actually see when they come to speak with us or watch what we do.
When the people see our good deeds, that is, when they see us living out our faith as opposed to hearing what others say about us, those who slander us will be put to shame. There are many efforts to portray our way of life as something that is divisive and wrong, especially in matters relating to LGBT issues. Our conduct must always be loving, showing that our true intent is to show people the errors and dangers of such life-styles. It must never be one of criticism or hatred. We must follow the guidance of our Lord to love all those who are around us, and never allow ourselves to turn into that which God has called us out from. Be true to the Word, live the truth, and stay true to the eternal values that we know are reality. Those who see the light will be either drawn to it, or will run from it. We must not attempt to force it either way.
Biblehub.com (2017). Commentaries, 1 Peter 2:12. Biblehub.com. Retrieved from http://biblehub.com/commentaries/1_peter/2-12.htm Aug. 8, 2017.