What is our duty to non-Christians?

Five hundred years before Jesus appeared in Galilee, the Hebrew people were defeated and forced into exile.

Jeremiah wrote an astounding message to the exiles in Babylon.

“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7).

How can this be? How can defeated exiles who are now slaves find it in their hearts to pray for the nation that defeated them?

I don’t know how they could do it, but I have a sense of why God sent them this message through the prophet.

God wanted them to witness to their oppressors. The way they conducted themselves would reveal God’s greatness in contrast to that of the Babylonians.

First-century Jewish Christians were resident aliens in the area we know today as Turkey. They were deprived of the rights of citizens and many were slaves.

Like Jeremiah, Peter wrote to emphasize their role in proclaiming the greatness of God.

They were not to assimilate the values of a pagan culture into their behavior. They were to shine as “salt” and “light” in the world.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth . . .

“You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5.13-14).

Peter’s message was, “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul” (1 Peter 2.11).

If the hamburger I had for lunch today was 50% salt, I would definitely know salt was present. If I couldn’t taste the salt, I may wonder if they forgot to add it to the meat.

If we so adapt to the values of our surrounding culture, the world may look for the “salt” in our lives and have trouble finding any.

No matter what our status may be in society, we are encouraged to be “salt” and “light.” We can’t adopt the values of the world to such a degree that our witness is absent.

The Positive Message

Peter first outlined what Jesus’ followers needed to avoid. His positive message followed.

“Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge” (1 Peter 2.12).

“Gentiles” in this instance refers to persons who are distant from God, rather than their race.

God’s people are to conduct themselves honorably among people who are distant from God because they will see our deeds and glorify God.

The pursuit of a Jesus-kind-of-life does not go unnoticed by a watching world. We may be seen as outsiders, but eventually, people will sense the glory of God in our actions.

Put Off – Put On

Peter’s message follows a traditional formula for God’s people.

Like removing dirty shoes before walking on a white carpet, there are some things we need to put off.

As if we need help, the New Testament writers provide their readers with lists of what needs to be put off.

They also give us lists of what we need to put on. When we surrender to the work of the Holy Spirit, we can expect to see this character transformation take place.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5.22-23).

You can imagine the effect a character with these traits will have on friends, family, and others. Let’s strive for this!

YouTube Video

Rudy Ross and I continue our discussion of 1 Peter on YouTube. You can see the video on the Bob Spradling channel.

Please email your prayer request to bsprad49@gmail.com. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.

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