Bewildered by What’s Going On in America? Peter Has a Message for Us

By Austin Roscoe Published on June 9, 2023

What in the world is going on?! American culture is becoming unrecognizable. Even Disney has sex scenes now, for crying out loud!

And y’all seem to agree. A whopping 90% of you who took our Stream Reader survey said that you’re “feeling more estranged from our culture”! And 75% of you said you feel “confused over changes in our nation’s social and political climate lately.”

For a while now, Paul’s words to the church in Rome have summed it up for me — that our culture not only practices sin, but gives hearty approval to those who practice the same. Yesterday, though, another passage jumped off the page, this time from Peter. He penned this to the church of the diaspora 2,000 years ago, but it feels just as relevant today. And the message he leaves us is fascinating. I’d definitely recommend you read the full letter of 1 Peter through in one sitting — it’s only a few pages long. But for now, let’s just look at chapter 4.

Vilified in an Indecent Culture

It starts with a reminder that we suffer like Christ, and that enduring through suffering produces character.

Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same attitude. For the one who has suffered in the flesh is finished with sin. As a result, he lives the rest of his time in the flesh no longer for human desires, but for God’s will.

He then reminds us that we can relate to the wild culture, having been saved by grace ourselves. And we can continue doing good despite suffering now, for God stands as Judge:

For the time that has passed was sufficient for you to carry out the desire of the pagans — living in indecency, lusts, drunken binges, orgies, wild parties, and lawless idolatries. They are surprised that you do not run with them into the same riot of recklessness, and they vilify you. But they will have to give an account to the One who stands ready to judge the living and the dead.

Even if we are judged harshly (even to death) by the world, Peter says, we live in the Spirit:

For this was the reason the Good News was proclaimed even to those now dead, so that though they are judged in the flesh before humans, they might live in the Spirit before God.

Practical Advice for Living in Perilous Times

Peter then pivots to advice on how the Church should conduct itself through these times of suffering:

Now the end of all things is near. So be self-controlled and sober-minded for prayer. Above all, keep your love for one another constant, for “love covers a multitude of sins.” Be hospitable one to another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of the many-sided grace of God. Whoever speaks, let it be as one speaking the utterances of God. Whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies. So in all things may God be glorified through Christ Jesus — all glory and power to Him forever and ever! Amen.

Then we learn that the changing social climate must have been surprising in Peter’s day as well, for he says,

Loved ones, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal taking place among you to test you — as though something strange were happening to you. Instead, rejoice insofar as you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that at the revelation of His glory you may also rejoice and be glad. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are fortunate, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. For let none of you suffer as a murderer or thief or evildoer or as a troublemaker. But if anyone suffers for following Christ, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this name. For the time has come for judgment to begin with the house of God. If judgment begins with us first, what will be the end for those who disobey the Good News of God? Now, “if it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what shall become of the ungodly and the sinner?”

The world is going crazy, that’s for sure. But we don’t have to stand dazzled in bewilderment. Rather, we can rejoice that we share in the suffering of Christ. And we can continue to do good:

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will — let them trust their souls to a faithful Creator while continuing to do good. (1 Peter 4 TLV, lightly adapted for clarity)

 

Austin Roscoe is The Stream’s web coordinator.

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