Colossians 4:5-6 talks about the need to be a good witness for Jesus Christ in our world. But this is not the only text that encourages us to do this. Jesus speaks about us being salt and light in this world (Matt 5:13-16). Peter also says much of the same thing in 1 Peter 2:11-12 and 3:14-16 (please read these sections).
1 Peter 2:11-12
Peter starts out by commanding us to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against the soul” and to “keep your conduct among the Gentiles (this means pagans here) honorable”. It is a clear call to holy living then.
But before we consider the call to holiness let us look at another phrase expressed in 2:11. Here, Peter calls believers “sojourners” and “exiles”. Out of all the names that could be used for believers he chooses these names.
Why does he refer to Christians like this?
How does this help us in our daily lives?
These titles are subtle reminders for our good. They remind us that we are specially loved by God, are His people (see 2:9-10) and set apart. We are sojourners and exiles and this expresses a deep love by God. It also is a reminder that this world is not our final home. Once we are saved, the world now appears to us as a foreign place—with values, traditions, beliefs—that are not shared by us any longer. It is as if this world is now a “gateway” region—a place we are simply passing through to get to our desired location. It is not our final resting place, so we should not ever get comfortable here.
Now this mentality can be taken too far. What potential danger can flow from this mentality?
We can often start to distance ourselves and seclude ourselves from the world if we take this too far.
How do we know that God does not intend us to be isolated entirely, but to have continued contact with the lost (look at 2:12 for clues)?
So we are to have contact with the lost on a regular basis. If you do not have regular contact with the lost, consider how you can get more opportunities to rub shoulders with the lost?
Peter goes on to explain why our behavior is vital. According to 2:12 what are the reasons for our good behavior?
Our good behavior refutes the claims made against us and it can produce glory to God in the final day, as they see what we are like and are then converted (that is what is assumed will happen with some).
If we read it carefully we see that our lifestyle may not always lead to being respected by the world. They may still speak evil against us. So we cannot think that simply by living a godly life the world will automatically respect and leave us alone. It does not always work out that way.
But our lifestyle can do great good. It can lead to the accuser’s shame (1 Pet 3:16) and it can lead some to salvation as they see and are converted (2:12). This verse is debated, but the most likely meaning is that the unbelievers see our good works, are converted and then join in glorifying God at the day when He comes to visit us at His return.
So our lifestyles are crucial to denounce the false accusations leveled against us and our faith. And it often leads to people’s conversion as they see and repent of their sins.
Brother and sister, your lifestyle is one of the most powerful tools you have. By your own lifestyle you can represent Christ. You can put down false views of the gospel. You can remove the force of accusations. You can even be used by God to lead people to be converted!
Often we as believers are focused on the need to do “apologetics”. This means the ability to defend the faith and give answers to people’s questions about our faith. So we tend to read, study, watch videos and learn complex answers to tough questions people might have about Christianity, but we are not as focused on our personal lifestyle. This is problematic because our lifestyle is one of the most powerful tools that we have. This is the specific call we are told to focus upon. Obviously, we must take opportunities to speak the gospel, but our lifestyle is crucial to lend credibility to what we speak.
Victorian preacher, J. C. Ryle, helpfully puts it like this:
“Our lives will always be doing either good or harm to those who see them. They are silent sermons which all can read. It is sad indeed when they are a sermon for the devil’s cause, and not for God’s…You may talk to persons about the doctrine of the Gospels, and few will listen, and still fewer understand. But your life is an argument that none can escape. There is a meaning about holiness which not even the most unlearned can help taking in. They may not understand justification, but they can understand charity [he means ‘love’ here]” (Holiness, p. 42).
Take time to consider what areas of your life need to be changed so that you can be a better witness for Jesus? Ask God to build these into your character.
Lord, remind me that I am yours and use me to influence others to see your gospel. Do not let me stand in the way of truth or to block the world’s sight of your goodness and glory by my ungodly lifestyle. Help me grow so that my life can stop people’s accusations and lead them to be saved. In Jesus’ name.