Text: 1 Peter 2:11-12 | Listen to Message
The Christian life is often characterized as a life of faith, a life of love, a life of holiness, or a life of obedience, but when’s the last time you heard someone describe the Christian life as a life of beauty?
Are Christians – especially morally conservative Christians – more concerned with being “right” than with living attractive, winsome, beautiful lives? And, if so, at what cost?
Let me come at this from another angle.
What words do non-Christians use to describe Christians these days? If we honest, we’re accustomed to hearing words like self-righteous, judgmental, power-hungry, close-minded, hypocrites.
Is this what Saint Peter had in mind when he wrote, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that . . . they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12)? I think not.
Sometimes believers push back with statements like, “Well, some of those perceptions aren’t really fair. Maybe some Christians are that way, but I’m not. Besides, unbelievers are just as judgmental and hypocritical as we are.” Yes, yes. But that’s a little beside the point, isn’t it? If we’re supposed to draw unbelievers to Jesus with our lives, these answers won’t cut it.
Go back to 1 Peter 2:12. The word “honorable” and the word “good” are the same Greek word: kalos. In one sense kalos refers to moral goodness, but in another it refers to something that’s beautiful, attractive, fitting, or appropriate. Peter’s clearly using this second sense here because he’s saying both your lifestyle and your individual actions need to draw unbelievers to worship Christ!
Is that how you live your life – so that non-Christians see you and think, “Wow, you serve an amazing God! Maybe I should take a look into the beliefs that cause you to live this way!”
See, most Christians have only one test for their actions.
1. Is this right or wrong?
But Peter, like Jesus in Matthew 5:16, gives a second test:
2. Is this beautiful and winsome to non-Christians?
I believe this second test would fundamentally transform the way we lived, if we chose to live with this kind of intentionality. It would change the way we live civically, the way we seek power, the way we use politics to force our beliefs on others. It would change the way we approach our vocations and work. It would change our marriages and families. It would change the way we react to trials, suffering, and injustice.
This second test would be especially helpful in situations where Christians have historically been more interested in being “right” than in being kind. For example, how would it transform the way you talk or disagree about a hot-button topic? How would it transform the way you treat others living in rampant sin? How would it transform the way you react to people who hurt you?
In each of these cases, and in many more like them, how would it transform unbelievers’ perceptions of believers if we were known to speak and act with kindness toward all? If we were seen as patient and gracious toward other sinners? If we could stand without compromise for truth, yet be marked by generosity and compassion toward the very people we disagreed with?
Peter plainly states there is an instrumental goal of living this way. There’s an ultimate purpose. It’s “so that . . . [unbelievers] may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”
That can only mean one thing: If unbelievers are to praise God on Judgment Day because of your beautiful deeds now, that has to mean God intends to use your life to point them to the ultimate beauty of Christ himself.
Maybe they observed your freedom in Christ, and deep down wished that they experienced that kind of victory and power over enslaving habits?
Maybe they marveled at your joy in the midst of trials, your contentment in the midst of loss, and realized you possessed something ultimate that circumstances couldn’t take away.
Maybe they saw you living generously and taking risks for what you believed, and longed for that kind of hope and confidence to live open-handedly.
Maybe they heard you critique yourself honestly, or laugh out loud at some idiosyncrasy of your own tribe, and wished they had the ability to be honest about their own brokenness.
Maybe they saw you engaging in radical acts of kindness toward your enemies, and it struck them that Someone was enabling you to love like that.
Maybe they noted that you never exaggerated or misrepresented another’s position when disagreeing, but always stated your opponents’ viewpoints so well they couldn’t have said them better themselves, and they wondered at your integrity.
In summary, maybe they realized they were already learning about the character of a good and gracious God simply by observing the way you carried yourself in good times and in bad. So they came to you and said something like, “You’ve got to tell me how you do this! I know that you have something I don’t have, but I want it.” And then you told them about Jesus. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Can you imagine what God might do if his Church determined to live that way?
What will you do to live a beautiful life today?