Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (verses 11-12)
The Apostle Paul, writing elsewhere in the New Testament, tells us to put off and to put on – to “put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires” and to “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22, 24).
Peter passionately urges the same thing – he uses different words, but it’s the same theme. “Abstain from sinful desires,” he says. Instead, “live such good lives.”
Neither Peter, nor Paul, gives us these charges out of the blue, dumping them on us as cold, hard weights of obligation. Paul emphasizes the reality that we have been “made new in the attitude of (our) minds” (Ephesians 4:23) – he’s referring to the work of the Holy Spirit who empowers us. Likewise, Peter speaks these commands in the midst of emphasizing, again and again, the nature of our true identity in the Lord.
He's just finished using many phrases, strung together one after another, to tell us who we are – “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” (verse 9). It’s a powerful line-up. But now, as he starts these new verses, he sums up our identity in one, single word – “Beloved.” The word doesn’t appear in the translation above because the NIV translates it instead as, “Dear friends,” making it sound simply like a greeting from Peter himself. Certainly, Peter speaks here from his own heart. But more strongly yet, he’s speaking from the heart of the Lord.
“Beloved.” That’s who we are to God. What a stunning insight. If this single word could truly capture our hearts and minds, our identity and self-worth would be transformed. Understanding that we are embraced in God’s love is the starting point for living as Peter urges us.
But not only are we “beloved” by God – we are “foreigners and exiles.” Clearly Peter thinks this is crucial since this isn’t the first time he’s emphasized it. This world looks like our home, but it’s not. Our citizenship is in a different kingdom, indeed a kingdom ruled by the very one who calls us “Beloved.”
So, “abstain from sinful desires” – they are contrary to the will of the one who loves you; contrary to the life of the kingdom to which you belong.
Instead, “live such good lives” – joyfully step into the good works the Father has prepared in advance for you to do. Gladly do the work of the kingdom. Do it all with the kingdom hope that those who are currently outside might see – might turn, might repent – so that on that great day of the Lord’s return, they too might be found praising him.
O Lord, thank you that I am beloved – by your Spirit, may I live in that reality more and more. Thank you that your kingdom is my true home – by your Spirit, set my heart and sights there. Here and now, strengthen me to honour you by putting aside my old self and putting on the new. May it all be to your glory. Amen.
Reflect: How can you walk this day in greater awareness that you are beloved? What differences would it make?