This passage deals with living for God in a pagan society. I think that people often forget that the much of the Bible, especially the New Testament, was written when the cultural values it describes is against the prevailing culture. The Bible has always been counter-cultural and often deals with how the cultures that surround the believers, whether it is the nations surrounding Israel or the occupying Empires, have a moral and religious impact on God’s people. This passage was not written in the straight-laced Victorian people or in today’s Bible belt of the US. It was written in the Greco-Roman Empire, where morals were very much different to what the Bible professes.
So it’s interesting that when reading it today, it resonates with the experience of living within a Western society. Verses 3-4 says, “For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.” We live in a culture where the are court cases debating whether men who accidentally kill their parters during rough sex are liable to prosecution. Sleeping with your partner before marriage is now the norm. In fact, to have had sexual partners still numbering in the single figures is deemed as having only a few. Although there isn’t direct persecution, there is a prevalent culture where chastity is an outdated oddity. Indeed, friends are surprised when you don’t get drunk on weekends and don’t seek out sexual partners.
However, as we follow Jesus, we are to follow a different standard. It’s hard because often society and Christian standards are at odds. It can be hard to uphold these differences in the face of what society says is right and wrong. So, how do we live counter-culturally that is welcoming, loving, seasoned with salt and also offensive to those around you? It’s a really hard tension and it’s really hard to know where we draw the line. I think in these things, however we need humility and faith in God’s Spirit, working in us. Helping us to discern and to have wisdom and strength whilst living lives so different to those around us.