Strangers in the World- 1 Peter 4:3-6

We have seen previously that our reconciliation to God provided for us by Christ is intended to produce a new attitude in us, a new way of thinking, and that this new attitude will produce a resultant change in lifestyle, in a life lived no longer in pursuit of the desires of the flesh but of the will of God. Peter then tells us, in verses three through six, that this change in attitude and lifestyle will result in those in the world changing their opinion of us and the way in which they treat us. Peter begins here, in verse three, by telling us that we all used to spend our lives doing “what the pagans choose to do”. By pagans here, Peter means those who have not been reconciled to God, who have not accepted the reconciliation with God provided in Christ. He then describes precisely what he has in mind in the phrase “doing what pagans choose”, and it is presented as a list of activities and attitudes beginning with “debauchery”. The Greek word debauchery here is aselgeia, and refers primarily to a lack of restraint, to one who does whatever he feels like doing whenever he feels like doing it. This term debauchery, then, refers primarily to an attitude, and this attitude produces the resultant behavior which follows in the verse (lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and idolatry). So what we find, then, is that the primary contrast presented here between those who have accepted the reconciliation with God provided by Christ and those who have not has to do with “restraint”. Those who have been reconciled are enabled to restrain the desires of the flesh for the higher good of doing the will of God, while those who are not reconciled have no desire or see no need to restrain the desires of the flesh, and live their lives without restraint, restrained only by lack of opportunity from doing whatever they feel like doing. Those who have been reconciled, who do not seek to live in this way will be seen as “strange” by them for not “plunging into the same flood of dissipation”. The Greek word “dissipation” here is asotias, and it is a word similar in meaning to aselgia, with aselgeia referring to a lack of restraint and asotia referring to a lack of control. What is pictured here is those not reconciled willfully throwing their entire selves into a flood, into something which controls them and causes them to go wherever the current takes them, to dive headlong into whatever the culture is doing and go wherever it takes them. Those who do not do so, who make the choice to go against the grain, to “swim against the current”, will in effect be “strangers” or “foreigners” (the meaning of the Greek xenizo here) in the culture, and those who plunge into this flood of dissipation will “heap abuse upon them”. The Greek word translated “heap abuse upon” here is blasphemeo, to “defame, revile, slander”, and the “abuse” here will not primarily be physical but rather verbal, mental and emotional. Those who choose to live out the attitude of reconciliation will be seen as strange by the culture, and will be called many “names” as a result. They will be referred to as “hateful, judgmental, bigoted, intolerant, racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic” etc. Peter here tells us how those who choose to live according to the attitude of reconciliation will be treated by the culture, but he also tells us here how we are to treat the culture in return. He begins by telling us first, that they will have to “give account” to God for their mistreatment of God’s people, and that God is “ready” for them. What Peter then tells us to do in the presence of this mistreatment by the culture is not to mistreat them in return, not to return the reviling and slander with slander and reviling of our own, but to simply choose to live our lives according to the attitude of reconciliation and leave those who mistreat us to God. God is ready and able to “judge” them for their behavior , and refusing to slander and revile them in return will make us even more “strangers and foreigners” in the culture, will make us shine even more as light in the darkness. So what Peter ultimately tells us here is that choosing to live out the attitude of reconciliation will cause us to be seen as misfits in the society, and to be reviled and slandered as a result, but to not respond to this with slander of our own, but to continue to shine as light in the darkness, in hopes that some living in darkness will come into the light before they ultimately must “give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead”.

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