Honoring Christ When the Grass Isn’t Greener
“If my candidate would have won, then I would feel secure.”
“If my boss would listen to my ideas, then work would be tolerable.”
“If my spouse would listen to me, then I wouldn’t be snippy.”
Perhaps you’ve had similar thoughts run through your head. The “if only’s” are often at play in our hearts and minds as we go through life. Usually, they appear in unfavorable contexts, and they are not quite as obvious as the ones stated above.
Peter is writing to people who are in the thick of challenging circumstances; a complex society (1 Pet. 2:13-17), difficult work environment (1 Peter 2:18-21), difficult marriages (1 Peter 3:1-7), and other complicated relationships (1 Peter 3:8-12). But before Peter addresses these categories, he first addresses the believer’s heart. Often before God changes our circumstances, he first must change our hearts.
In 1 Peter 2:11-12, our memory verse for May, Peter gives us three directions to steer us away from the “grass is always greener” mentality, bringing so much pain and heartache into our lives.
Have a clear sense of your identity (1 Peter 2:11a)
It’s no secret that this world values things like pleasure and comfort. We needn’t look farther than advertisements to see how the messages of the culture reinforce these ideas. Consider just two: Burger King tells us, “Have it your way.” While Snickers says, “Hungry? Why wait?” It’s all about you and instant gratification! If my only hope for happiness is in this world or if my highest loyalties are to self, naturally, I will escape from difficult situations. If only…
Peter gives us a different perspective. He reminds us we are temporary residents of this world. Both titles, “sojourner” and “exiles,” remind us of the truth: you are just passing through. Peter spent the first two and a half chapters orientating us to the blessings of God’s great mercy towards us. He did this by looking at our future inheritance, our adoption into the family of God through the sacrificial work of Christ, and the work that God is doing to make us a unique people within this world. It’s as if Peter is saying here are the hopes, values, ideals, purposes of your true and lasting home. Then he encourages us to live them out wherever we are.
Live with a wartime mentality (1 Peter 2:11b)
After Peter orientates us to the temporary nature of our stay, he tells us we are involved in a war. But who or what are we at war with? The passions of our flesh! As Pogo said, “We have seen the enemy, and he is us.” However, the “if only’s” tell us our greatest battle is anything that is not us. It’s my boss's fault I hate my job. It’s my spouse's fault I don’t feel fulfilled. It’s the president’s fault I post hateful messages on social media, etc.
Peter knows that if we fail to deal with our flesh first, we will never be able to correctly addresses external circumstances and relationships with the values of our true citizenship. The need to battle against “the passions of the flesh” is a common theme throughout Scripture, particularly in the New Testament. Consider these ideas:
The passions of the flesh produce the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-24; Ephesians 2:3).
When sin reigns in our mortal body, we carry out the passion of the flesh (Romans 6:12).
The passions of the flesh are at odds with the will of God (1 Peter 4:2).
We are to no longer be conformed to the passions of our former ignorance (1 Peter 1:14).
Again, our world tells us the greatest good for any individual is self-fulfillment or self-actualization by living out your authentic self. There is no higher authority to which you must submit than your own heart. It’s not hard to imagine how being influenced by this message all day, and every day makes it difficult to “be subject for the Lord’s sake” to anything that pushes against self-fulfillment.
If Peter were to talk about the “if only’s,” he would say, “If only you would battle against the fleshly desire of pride and self-importance, then you could serve your spouse or your co-workers rather than criticize them.”
Peter knows our tendency is to get distracted from the battle against indwelling sin by focusing on everything around us. John Owen directs our attention to the inward struggle and reminds us to give no quarter to the enemy:
“Believe not its flatteries:—'Is it not a little one?’ ‘This is the first or shall be the last time;’ ‘It requires only a little place in the mind and affections;’ 'It shall go no farther.’ Give not place to its urgency and solicitations; admit of none of its excuses or promises; it is power over your souls unto their ruin that it aims at in all.” (John Owen, The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 7 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.), 507)
Remember you represent Christ (1 Peter 2:12)
Lastly, Peter wants us to remember we represent Christ in all our interactions. The reason we don’t live according the passions of the flesh is so people will see Christ in us. If we live honorably, which means good and attractive, we are far better witnesses to a lost world. Peter is saying let your conduct speak louder than their slander. Peter reinforces this idea a few verses later: “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” (1 Pet. 2:15 cf. Matthew 5:13-16)
If our primary allegiance is to Christ and our greatest concern is to represent Him to a lost world, “if only” takes on a new dimension. “If only I can make Christ known in this interaction, then I will be happy.”