Sojourn: Toward an Enduring City
11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright (c)2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. http://www.esv.org
Our neighbors have a fish, so when they leave town, we have a fish. During our brief sojourns with our aquatic friend, I sometimes think about life in the fishbowl. I wonder, “What’s it like to live in that bowl? How does it feel to be threatened by a cat and a toddler?” I don’t think the fish contemplates such questions, but I have noticed one thing. He comes to life when we approach the fishbowl. From the other side of the room, he appears sluggish, but when we get close, he welcomes the attention. It’s like he knows his life is on display.
On Sunday Mark Davis compared the Christian life to life in a fishbowl. Christ’s followers do not swim in a claustrophobic container but in the glorious freedom of the children of God. Our fishbowl could be labeled “IN CHRIST,” and in Christ the Lord has put our lives on display. The Christian life is a glass door and an open window to the watching world. Peter writes, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12). As Peter brings our conduct into focus, the passage raises several questions worthy of reflection.
First, do we understand the significance of our lives being on display? Theologically, we know that belief precedes behavior, that who God is and what He has done undergirds and empowers our response. But we mustn’t forget that God’s grace saves us and transforms us. In our radically individualistic world, we need the reminder that as the body of Christ, our conduct matters. People are watching, and they’re asking whether Jesus Christ makes a difference. As we consider our various spheres of influence, how do our lives make the gospel more (or less) believable? Are we eager to address the disconnects between what we profess and what we practice?
Second, do we understand the opportunity the Lord has given us? As we live in the fishbowl, the watching world is more dangerous than any cat or toddler. Peter tells us that outsiders will speak against us as evildoers. When we do good and people call it evil, what will those people see in our response? A good defense or good deeds? Amazingly, the Lord has chosen to use the consistent, faithful conduct of His imperfect people to reveal the worth of Christ to those who need Him. When Jesus was hanging on a cross, the world called evil good. And with His life on full display, Jesus responded, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” There’s a reason that the Christian life looks “alien” to those on the outside. Do we realize we’re living in a fishbowl, with our lives on display? And are we praying that the Lord will use our lives to invite others to stop spectating and take the plunge?