Christians living in the community (1 Peter 2:9-25; Matthew 5:13-16)
The community is made up of a group of people living in an area or neighborhood. As Christians we live in the community with others who are not Christians.
Peter and Christians living in the community (1 Peter 2:9-25): According to Peter, Christians are the chosen race and for that reason they should comport themselves well in the community. Formerly, Christians were not people in God’s sight, but we are now God’s people who have been called from darkness into His marvelous light. Before, we had no mercy, but now we have obtained mercy. Henceforth, we should not conform to the standard of conduct in the community. We should reject the former life of sin, and become changed people, who have been freed from the passion of the flesh.
As Christians, we should maintain good conduct in the community, so that in case they spoke against us as wrongdoers, they might see our good works and glorify God on the judgement day. We should obey our rulers and submit to all other constituted authority. God had set up governments to punish evildoers and praise those who do right. By doing the right thing, we put to shame the ignorance of foolish men.
Being free men under Christ, we should not use our freedom as an excuse to do what is wrong. As servants of God, we should behave in accordance with our high calling, by honouring all men and loving the Christian brotherhood. Christian servants are to be loyal to their masters, whether they are foreigners or the wicked type. A good servant is the one who endures pain while suffering oppression. It is not good for a servant to retaliate when punished for a wrong he had done. But when he does evil and suffers for it, and bears it patiently, he wins God’s approval.
Peter said Jesus is a good example of the suffering servant whom we should follow. This is because Jesus was sinless and innocent, and, when he was abused, he did not abuse in return. When he suffered, he did not threaten his persecutors. Jesus trusted in God who would give right judgement in the end. He died for our sins and by his wounds, we have been healed. We were formerly straying like sheep, but Jesus has been our good shepherd and has shown us the way to salvation.
Matthew and Christians living in the community (Matthew 5:13-16): In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus told Christians what to do when living in the community. They should live in the community as the ‘salt’ of the earth and the ‘light’ of the world.
‘Salt’ is good because it preserves things, like fish, from decay. It also improves the taste of the food that we eat. As salt of the earth, your duty as a Christian in the community is to behave in such a way that you become the agent of preserving and improving the quality of life in the society; that is to make sure that there is good relationship between men and God and between each other. We are able to do this by our good example as committed Christians who live according to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Our good ways of life will influence others to lead good lives and as a result preserve and improve the quality of life in the community.
‘Light’ is the source of life. Without adequate light, a plant cannot grow and may therefore die. Without light there will be darkness all around us and we will not have the energy to work and make progress. Therefore as ‘light of the world,’ Christians are to behave in such a way as to become the source of good life to others. When we follow the teaching of Jesus in our life, we become the light of the world; and by our good example, we lead others to the greater light in Jesus Christ. Therefore, we should let our light so shine before men (everybody) that they may see our good works and glorify God in heaven.
The Significance of Peter’s and Matthew’s teaching on Christians living in the community: The teachings of Peter and Matthew on the conduct of Christians living in the community, as the chosen race, means that we, as Christians, should lead righteous lives worthy of our calling, and be good examples to others. As the salt of the earth and the light of the world, we should endeavour to avoid the social vices common in society. Some of the social vices that we are to shun are: Cheating, Examination Malpractices, Fraud, Bribery, Corruption, Cultism, Smoking, Drunkenness, Drug Addiction, Adultery, Fornication, Abortion, Partiality and Tribalism.
Christian attitude to: ‘Persecution’
To persecute someone, is to molest, threaten, injure or even kill that person for the sake of his or her religious or political beliefs. For instance, some Christians are persecuted for practicing righteousness as taught to them by Jesus Christ. They are hated, threatened or murdered for speaking against social evils such as fraud, bribery, corruption, immorality, examination malpractices, cultism, discrimination/partiality and tribalism.
Some people are also persecuted just because of their Christian faith. Those who do not like Christians because of their (Christian) faith persecute them by destroying their properties – Churches, homes etc; maim them ; deny them the right to build their churches in the country; deny them job opportunities, harass them or kill them at the slightest opportunity.
Since persecution involves suffering and even death, such Christians may be tempted to condone evil or refuse to condemn it. Peter and James saw this problem among the members of the early Church, and enjoined Christians not to adopt a negative attitude to persecution. Our attitude to persecution should be positive. This is because, persecution in whatever form is a trial of our faith. We cannot say we are true Christians practicing righteousness until our faith is tested in a situation where we are likely to be persecuted for condemning evil. When we pass the test by condemning evil in our societies, then we know that we are growing and developing in faith, as mature and responsible Christians.
Peter’s teaching on Christians’ attitude to: Persecution: (1 Peter 3:13-17; 1 Peter 1:6-9,10)
Peter recognized that Christians could face persecution on earth. This he believed was necessary in order to test the genuineness of their faith. Persecution is like fire to refine them just as gold is refined; to the praise, honour and glory of God at the last day.
Peter advised that in the midst of such persecution, Christians should maintain a positive attitude by rejoicing. According to Peter, the prophets of old who predicted the suffering of Jesus Christ also spoke of his glory that was to come after a period of suffering. This is the good news of the resurrected Christ now being preached. Therefore, it is important for Christians who are facing persecution to comport themselves and to set their hope on the grace that would be theirs at Christ’s Second Coming. As obedient children of God, they should not conform to the sinful ways of the past, but should live holy lives, as God Himself is holy. Since they call God, the impartial judge, their Father, they should conduct themselves with fear as long as they live.
Peter said that Christians under persecution should maintain a positive attitude because they are sharing in the suffering of Christ. Therefore, they should regard any suffering in the name of Christ as blessing and cause for joy, because the Spirit of God rests upon them. However, Christians should not suffer as murderers, thieves or wrongdoers. Nevertheless, if a Christian under persecution suffers, he should not be ashamed. Instead, he should glorify God while suffering for Christ’s sake. For, in no time, judgement would begin with believers. If judgement would begin with believers, how sad will be the end of unbelievers on that day. If the righteous man would narrowly escape judgement, where would the sinner be? Therefore, let those who suffer persecution according to God’s will or innocently, continue to do what is right and entrust their souls to a faithful Creator.
James’ teaching on Christian attitude to: Persecution (James 1:12-15): James taught that Christians should maintain a positive attitude towards persecution. This is because those who are able to endure suffering and persecution will receive as their reward the crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him. When we are tempted, we should not say it is God who has tempted us because God tempts notone. We are tempted when we are enticed by our own desire. Then the desire, when it has taken root in us leads us into sin, which may result in death.
The Significance of Peter and James teaching on Christian attitude to: Persecution: The teachings of both Peter and James recognize the fact that persecution is part of the Christian life. Therefore, as Christians we are to see persecution in a positive light as a means of testing our faith. Consequently, we must not run away from persecution, butto face itwith courage. We should not give up our faith in times of persecution, but to remain loyal to Christ to the very end of our lives. We should not be afraid to condemn all that is wrong in the society because of the fear of persecution.
Hence, we should be bold to speak courageously against examination malpractices, secret societies (cultism), partiality, tribalism, fraud and all forms of injustice. As Christians, Peter and James are saying to us that it is better for Christians to be victims of persecution than to be the instruments of wrongdoing.
Religious Guidance and Counselling
God wants you to behave as good Christians among non-Christians
It is not easy for us Christians to live as good Christians among non-Christians. Sometimes our behaviour is good and sometimes it is bad. The problem is that as human beings we are not perfect. Only Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith is perfect. It is he alone who has the power to make us perfect to live as good Christian among non-Christians.
Therefore, you should call upon Jesus to help you live as good Christians among non-Christians.
God wants you to be positive in your attitude to persecution
As Christians we are likely to be persecuted for doing the right thing or speaking the truth or condemning all that is wrong in the home, school and society. When that happens we should not be discouraged because it is a test of our faith as true Christians.
You should continue to pray to Jesus to help you to be positive in your attitude to persecution and share in his suffering for he was persecuted for the sake of righteousness. This will help us receive the crown of life which He has promised to all who love God.
Religious and Moral Lessons
- It is not easy for Christians to live as the chosen race among non-Christians. As a Christian, you must learn to pray to Jesus to help you live as the chosen race among non-Christians.
- It is difficult for Christians to live as the salt of the earth and the light of the world among non-Christians. As a Christian you must learn to ask Jesus to help you live as the salt of the earth and the light of the world among non-Christians.
- Persecution is a trial of our faith as Christians. As a Christian, you must learn to be positive in your attitude to persecution and withstand the trial of your faith.
- God has promised a crown of life as reward to all Christians who endure persecution. You must learn to pray to Jesus to help you endure persecution so as to be rewarded with a crown of life by God.