Scripture: 1 Peter 4:1-6
1Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 3For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.
The Gospel creates a new motivation for us to pursue holiness: Jesus suffered in this world in order to accomplish the will of God. vs. 1-2
People are surprised and don’t like it when others don’t join them in “their flood of debauchery:” sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties and lawless idolatry. They malign the abstainers. vs. 3-4
But all people will give an account to God who judges our lives. vs. 5-6
Peter’s language seems archaic and old: a flood of debauchery. Yet, the imagery is dramatic. Watching videos of flash floods inspire awe as I watch the power of water unleashed on unsuspecting people and their belongings. They are carried away! The destructive power of a flood is awesome.
Debauchery by definition is excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures. It hits us like a flood. Food, wine, sex, drinking parties, entertainment, shopping. What? Did I say shopping? Black Friday is a day of debauchery! Who got carried away by the hype, great deals and easy credit?
We always pay for it. The problem with excessive indulgence is that it is short-sighted and loses sight of what actually brings meaning to our lives. And that loss of meaning does hurt people. Not just ourselves, but also the people who count on us. Excessive indulgence creeps up on us and then self-control is an illusion we manufacture to convince ourselves that we are OK and that we are right. We tell ourselves, “I can stop when I want.” Recently the most dramatic cultural illustration of this was in the Hunger Games series. The “capital look” became code in our family dinner conversations for excess and cooperative neglect for the real value of people.
I know I need a Saviour! To live in the Spirit (vs. 6) is a gift. Jesus lived responsive to his Heavenly Father and yet even he was called a “glutton and friend of sinners” in contrast to John the Baptist, his cousin who lived responsive to God in the tradition of the prophets. Even he was criticized. I need grace to enjoy what is to be enjoyed as a gift of God. I need grace to live for the affirmation of the Spirit and not the crowds being carried away.
Heavenly Father, have mercy on me and give me grace to enjoy life as Jesus did. But also grant me the courage and foresight to suffer according to your will. Shape my character by your holiness. Fill me with your Spirit. AMEN.