Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body has finished with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do – living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to human standards in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.
1 Peter 4:1-6
The locals called it Blue Lagoon. On a hot day, dozens would swim in the turquoise waters of this disused quarry just outside Buxton in Derbyshire. What these bathers hadn’t noticed (or chose not to notice) were the signs warning of the water’s high pH level (11.3). Bleach has a pH level of 12.3! The water was contaminated with caustic chemicals, abandoned vehicles, and dead animals. The council subsequently dyed the water black to make it less appealing.
Sin, warns Peter, is exactly like Blue Lagoon. It looks so appealing. You see the sun shimmering on the rippling surface, as laughing faces dive in and splash around. ‘Jump in!’ they call out, ‘Don’t be so boring!’ But they ignore the warning signs: ‘Corrosive water! Swimming here will lead to judgement.’
The temptation for these early Christians would have been great. They used to be ‘pagans… living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry’ (4:3). The instant gratification these things promised, along with the pressure to join in, may perhaps have felt too much to bear.
Peter reminds them of who they were, and who they are now. They’ve broken off their toxic relationship with sin, entering an eternal relationship with Jesus. Going back to such empty ways, ways that would lead to judgement, would be nothing short of self-sabotage.
Refusing the allure of sin is not just about what is good for us, nor is it just about avoiding God’s judgement (though both form part of the picture). We are called to be the people of God, to serve as royal priests. Our lives are supposed to reflect the beauty of our Lord, that others may be attracted to him. If Jesus rescues us from sin, but then we just continue to participate in the sins of our culture, we are jeopardising God’s mission. We are failing to live out our purpose.
Temptation abounds. A little gossip about the neighbour who’s a bit weird. A ‘harmless’ lie to a client to hide your company’s error. An endorphin hit from a few minutes of pornography on your smartphone – no-one will ever know. Adding things to your Amazon basket you really don’t need, but may lift your mood for a moment. Stepping across the line with alcohol – you know where it is. It may be fun, for a short while at least, but where does it leave you?
This is an extract from our NEW 22-day journey through 1 Peter, beginning 6 November. Sign up here.