Peter was writing to Jewish disciples living away from their homeland. They were Jews living among Gentiles so there was some pushback from that, but more to the point, they were followers of Jesus of Nazareth, so they were at odds with most people within their already marginalized community—their neighbors, friends and family. It was a difficult situation that wasn’t going away—what did Peter say to them?
He didn’t deny any of the hard truths they were confronted by. He did remind them of who they were and what they should focus on. He wanted his brothers and sisters who were experiencing rejection to know they had been “chosen” by God (1:2)! And although things seem despairing, they had been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (v. 3) and were shielded by God’s power (v. 5). All of that would be welcome news for these people who though they had not seen Jesus, they loved Him, believed in Him and were filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy (v. 8).
But Peter didn’t linger there. Almost immediately he doubled down with a call to radical living. The “easy” way to ease their problems would have been to just adopt the lifestyle of the world around them—tone things down a little, blend in rather than stand out. It would have been easy, but it wouldn’t have been true to the Christ who had died for them. Peter called them to live holy lives—not the toxic holiness of the Pharisees that sought to display to everyone how great they were (Matthew 23:1-7); but the holiness of Jesus that pointed people to how great God is (Matthew 5:13).
This is a healthy holiness that all disciples are called to practice (Hebrews 12:14). To pursue this is to engage in the effort to incarnate the the very character of God in our attitudes and actions (1 Peter 1:15-16). This is what we were created for! The life of holiness is fueled by a profound reverence toward God (v. 17). And while all of us fall short in our attempt to imitate God (1 John 1:7-10), that’s not the point. God is glorified in our efforts (1 Corinthians 10:31) and the world is pointed in His direction (Matthew 5:13).
Right living is its own reward! In the hereafter to be sure, but in the present as well. It brings glory to our Father and aren’t we pleased to know that like a telescope, something as small as we are can magnify something as big as God? Then there are the benefits of a good conscience, self-respect, and the joy that comes in seeking God’s kingdom above all else.
Pursuing holiness is pursuing wholeness. Being around people who are seeking God’s reign in their lives inspires and encourages us. Holiness is healthy!