1 Peter 4

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 Although there isn’t direct persecution, there is a prevalent culture where chastity is an outdated oddity.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.

Amos 2

Amos 1 warns various countries surrounding Judah and Israel about their future. Moab gets the next warning in Amos 2. God will destroy Moab’s rulers.

Then God’s anger turns on his own people. Judah rejected the law of God; they worshipped idols. Again, Judah too will experience consuming fire.

Israel’s list of sins is quite extensive. They sell vulnerable people for gain; destroy the poor; fail to help the oppressed; they are involved in sexual scandals and the use of prostitutes; they use their power to make themselves rich. Those that should be honouring God the most – the prophets and the Nazirites – have all fallen into sin.

This list is somewhat terrifying. It’s not just because what they have done is wrong; it’s because the list is all too recognisable. There have never been as many slaves as there are today. People work in sweatshops for the profit of multinational business owners. London has become a hotbed of people-trafficking. Desperate refugees are used to make profits. The poor are being made poorer and the oppressed are still hindered through systematic, institutional and cultural prejudice and injustice. So many leaders and celebrities have been reveal to have been sexually immoral. People, even world leaders, abuse their power to get what they want. Churches are involved in such scandals nowadays it makes one weep.

Even “Christian” nations are full of these sins. They are the Israels of Amos’ times.

What does God tell them? He tells them he will crush them. It will be swift and no one will escape.

It’s a terrifying warning, especially as the picture looks so recognisable. It does make me wonder what might happen to the nations and the leaders of today.