How should we respond to the cultural changes in Western society exemplified, for example, by the decision this week regarding marriage handed down by the Supreme Court of the United States? While delighting many, it is a decision that stands against, not just the Bible, but the natural order of the world. How, we ask ourselves, can we make our voice heard?
We tend to forget that the New Testament times were not dissimilar to our own. In his First Letter, Peter the Apostle, for example, was writing to followers of Jesus Christ who were suffering or about to suffer severe persecution for their faith. Their world was marked by narcissism and self-interest. Sexually decadent, it was an age of entertainment and alcohol.
People to whom Peter was writing were the victims of oppression. They were living under one of the most powerful and ruthless dictatorships in history, the Roman Empire. They had no vote and no free speech. Yet the gospel of Jesus Christ triumphed.
Let’s pause to consider what Jesus taught. In response to a question about marriage and divorce (Mark 10:6-8), he brought together Genesis 1:27: Male and female God created them, and Genesis 2:24: For this reason a man shall leave… and cleave to his wife (woman) and the two shall become one flesh. Jesus underlined the male-female nature of the marital/sexual bond.
So, how should we respond when we feel we have no power and no opportunity? In 1 Peter 2:12 we read:
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
With his words the day God visits us Peter is referring to the Day of Jesus’ return. On that day, he is saying, unbelievers who have slandered God’s people will glorify God.
Good conduct, godly behavior, will not often draw the applause of the crowds. We only need to reflect on the way Christians are mocked today, not just on television shows, but in the social media. Yet, Peter is saying, ‘stand firm with your new way of living. Yes, there will be times when you are slandered and falsely accused, but the very consistency of your life may result in the salvation of others.’
CHANGING LIVES FOR GOOD
Consciously following the prescriptions that the Lord Jesus has laid down for our lives is not only good for us, but our new way of living provides opportunity for people around us to discover God’s good news. Our changed and changing lives challenge others – not least when it comes to the matter of marriage.
Indeed, Peter goes on with a word to wives about the way they might reach unbelieving husbands:
so that… they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives – when they see your respectful and pure conduct (3:1-2).
Now, he is not saying people are converted by seeing the good works of God’s people. Back in 1:12 he states that we become God’s people only when we respond in repentance and faith to God’s gospel of grace. People glorify God (2:12) because they have seen the difference in the lives of God’s people and they’ve been drawn to the faith that has brought about that change.
The tough question we need to ask ourselves is, ‘What does my life look like to others?’ And if we are married, ‘What does my marriage look like to others?’