Peter continues exhorting us to behaviors of perfect unity with Jesus based on how he behaved while suffering here on this earth, grasping our baptism as an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus:
“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God” (1 Pet 4:1-2).
Ironically, this blog is published on the one-year mark since Sue, my wife, my best friend, my partner in life for 52 and a half years, took a bad fall, and has suffered in the flesh continuously with vertigo and insomnia. She would be the first to tell you that every day has been consumed far from normal human temptation while trying to understand the will of God for her and for us.
Humorously, Peter is leading us to reach for the will of God by realizing that our past sinful behaviors are put away by suffering as we learn to yearn for the will of God. But his description of previous behavior is a bit strong for those of us who have been believers for a long time:
“For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does” (1 Pet 4:3-6).
Peter’s words here describe Gentiles in Peter’s day who cannot understand the behaviors of the Jews dispersed far from Jerusalem. Nothing in these behaviors of disunity from God could be farther from the truth in describing my Sue!
The one thing we have in common with the Jews of the dispersion, though, as well as with the whole of humanity, is to understand and accept the will of God in our behaviors, to live in the spirit the way God does.
The answer lies, then, in how we live:
“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies – in order that everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Pet 4:7- 11).
As Sue and I age, we see friends all around us suffering physically. For those who believe in Jesus and in eternal life, we all strive to understand the will of God in suffering, knowing that we are being refined like gold, at the end of the journey here on earth, we will be free.
Hurry back for Part 4, where Peter offers an approach to suffering, whether it be illness or persecution, that carries through to perfect unity with Jesus!