Being Faithful to God
1Christ suffered here on earth. Now you must be ready to suffer as he did, because suffering shows that you have stopped sinning. 2It means you have turned from your own desires and want to obey God for the rest of your life. 3You have already lived long enough like people who don't know God. You were immoral and followed your evil desires. You went around drinking and partying and carrying on. In fact, you even worshiped disgusting idols. 4Now your former friends wonder why you have stopped running around with them, and they curse you for it. 5But they will have to answer to God, who judges the living and the dead. 6The good news has even been preached to the dead, so that after they have been judged for what they have done in this life, their spirits will live with God.
7Everything will soon come to an end. So be serious and be sensible enough to pray.
8 Most important of all, you must sincerely love each other, because love wipes away many sins.
9Welcome people into your home and don't grumble about it.
10Each of you has been blessed with one of God's many wonderful gifts to be used in the service of others. So use your gift well. 11If you have the gift of speaking, preach God's message. If you have the gift of helping others, do it with the strength that God supplies. Everything should be done in a way that will bring honor to God because of Jesus Christ, who is glorious and powerful forever. Amen.
Things change when people choose to orient their lives around Christian beliefs. Their interests and activities take a different course. Certain behaviours and previously pleasurable pastimes no longer seem to satisfy. Former associates may be confused by what they see; others will be angry.
Letting go of “worldly” activities and hanging out with different friends may well open one to ridicule and abuse. When these things (and worse) happen, this passage encourages believers to let God be their source of discernment – not their culture.
In fact, Christians are told to anticipate hardships, and to remember that Jesus endured such suffering and more. The hurt and hard times will not last forever. True believers will be vindicated. So live with a strong sense that a final reckoning will indeed occur.
In the meantime, while threats and difficulties abound, cluster with fellow believers and focus on showing love to all. That’s the way to get beyond the burden of your own sins and regrets. Be hospitable, and don’t gripe about it. Do whatever you’re good at for the benefit of others.
The best response to harsh times is to live in loving community. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (4:8 NIV). Living with a profound sense of God’s presence does more than add fuel to a guilty conscience. It stimulates righteous living. It empowers. It grounds. It centres.
Always keep God at the centre, acknowledging him as the reason why you choose to love rather than to hate; to serve instead of being demanding; to give rather than to grasp. These behaviours honour God. So keep doing them, and keep giving God all the glory. This is what it takes to transcend hard times. This is the source of true strength. This is how it’s done.
O God, not much of my suffering stems directly from my allegiance to you. Yet I yearn for the comforts you provide to all who endure hardship when our faith puts us at odds with our culture. Enable me to maintain constant love for you, O God, and my neighbours. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.