Be good. It's a familiar refrain, one we probably say to our children a gazillion times. Whenever we send them off to a friend's house, or on those days when The Sibling Wars are especially fierce. It's understood that there are the good things to do and the bad. That those are, to a point, what define us. That it's by what we're judged by the people around us, at the least.
And in my ongoing quest to figure out how to be who God wants me to be in this world that seems more intent upon pursuing all the bad things rather than the good, I came across this verse.
"For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— 16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king."
~ I Peter 2:15-17
In this section, Peter is cautioning people to live a Godly life before the world, abstaining from lusts of the flush and sinful things. Obeying the government. Then these verses above. I've no doubt read them quite a few times, but they really struck me the last time I did. Look closely.
By doing good you my put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.
What does that mean? It means that our actions speak louder than the words of our enemies, of our detractors. It means that by doing good, doing the will of God, we point to Him, and in the face of it, no one can really say anything bad about us. It means that by being/doing good, we force the other side to bite their tongues. Because how can they argue with what is universally acknowledged as good?
But then it goes on. Let's examine verse 16. ...as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice...
This reminds me of the part in I Corinthians where Paul says, "Look, guys. You're free from the law. That means all things are lawful for you. But don't be stupid. It doesn't mean all things are good for you, that all things are helpful. Act like they are and you're just going to become a slave to them." (That's the Roseanna paraphrase.)
We are free. Yes, absolutely. Faith in Jesus frees us from law, from religion. But we're still responsible for our actions in the world. And what's more, people are still watching us. So we don't want to use freedom as an excuse to do bad things. That's just stupid. We have to find the balance to strike--embracing the freedom without abusing it. Rejecting the chains of the law, be it the ancient ones that Jesus was arguing with or the ones the church was pretty quick to develop within the first couple hundred years of Christianity--but not betraying the spirit behind all those constricting rules.
And here's the clincher. ...as bondservants of God.
I've talked before about what it really means to be a bondservant of God. (Read that post here. It's one I go back to frequently.) In a nutshell, it means we freely turn our will over to Him. We swear to serve Him for all our lives, and in return we become part of His family, part of His household. A servant, yes, but one beloved by our master and even able to inherit. So if we're living out our liberty as bondservants of God, then that means EVERYTHING WE DO is for Him. In His interests. What He asks of us.
It means we're going to show respect to those in authority. We're going to love our brethren in Christ. We're going to be good citizens. We're never going to forget what God can do. We're going to be good. And because we are, others will see and respect us and love us and seek God. It means that the worst thing people will be able to say about us is that we follow a strange God who doesn't do the things that the world does, doesn't worship what the world worships, and leads others to this same God.
Now that's a criticism we should all seek to have lobbed at us!