1 Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 3 For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. 4 In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God. (1 Peter 4:1-6)
This is the last “Letters in Pandemic.” After this, if the Lord allows, we (all the contributors) will meet again in words again sometime in the future. Today’s scripture is also a reminder at the end. Peter admonished the church of his time, before he said goodbye, encourage the church to keep up work and be not be dismayed.
Nowadays many Christians lament the good old days. They believe those were the days life is simple and people fear the Lord. Let us not be immersed in the time past. We should acknowledged the Christian world view is never the dominant culture in the history of this world. Christendom is not normal! Think about the two most populous nations, India and China count towards almost 30% of the world population. Adding to the Africa continent and Islamic countries, they are the majority. Then we look around to find only a handful of so called Christian nations. Most of them are extremely secularized. Even Christians supposed to consist of 31.4% of the world’s population, but how many of them are nominal Christians who have never set foot in a church and needless to say have practiced Christianity. These are only Christian by name and not by practice. Their lives is not different from any atheist or agnostics. Christians live in an unfriendly society is a given.
We thank the Lord who is there in convenient time or inconvenient time. When the church was first formed, she is very different from the Roman world, oddly dissimilar with Judaism. Just like the recipients of the Hebrews, Peter’s recipients were facing rejection from the society at large. When they first became Christians, the rejection was not obvious. The longer they became Christians, larger the gap between them and the society. Some of them could not resist the pressure and were thinking to revert to Judaism, a religion protected by the Roman government, or simply abandoned their faith. Peter’s recipients were taking a stand but they are pressured nonetheless. Peter reminded them it is normal to be rejected by the society for Christians will not follow the crowd. This world would probably laughing at Christians as they see us backward and outdated. We could not keep up with the trend. We may even be considered going to the opposite direction of the contemporary values. But Peter emphasized that it is just normal. Maybe to a lot people, it is the new normal. We shall see the ending when we all face the judgment together. All of us will be judged by a standard we all understand and know full in our hearts. Each one of us will have to face God on our own merit. We could have deceive ourselves because everyone is doing it. However, this “excesses of dissipation” is not foreign to each one of our conscience. By the time they face God’s judgment, they will be totally embarrassed. But when we are judged by God, we know the discomfort we experienced on earth will pay for we have followed the Gospel’s promise. At the end, Peter pointed out, both the dead and the living are judged by the same standard we all know. Those who have deviated from this standard, “excesses of dissipation” will be punished. For those who have followed the Gospel and live accordingly, we are rewarded with the promise of eternal life according to the Gospel.
Difficult times is the time for Christians to practice God’s command. We keep ourselves close to God and be holy. There may not be cheers nor reward on this earth. Yet following the Gospel’s way of life is the will of God.