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 think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. (NIV)
I became a Christian when I was about 28 years old. I had rejected Christianity and my philosophy was that it was OK to do anything as long as no one got hurt. That is pretty much the philosophy of the world today. The only problem with it is that I can’t determine if someone is going to be hurt or not by following my own selfish desires. If I choose to spend all my income on my pleasures, and myself, then I am hurting others that are in need. Without any way of determining what is OK other than my own perception of what may hurt others, I also failed to understand what would hurt me.
The human mind is very capable of rationalizing just about anything in order to satisfy perceived needs. That is why, after abundant information about the dangers of smoking, people still smoke – even physicians. That is why a person with several DUIs will still drink and drive. That is why the man or woman in a loving marriage will still stray and commit adultery. I don’t need to list the things I did before I came to Christ or even the sins committed afterward. All I need to do is re-read verse 4 and know that I spent way too much time doing those things.
What I do need to do is substitute that attitude of self-indulgence with something else. That is impossible without coming to Christ and having a new birth. Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world. (RSV) His grace trains me to live a new life. Without His leading by His Holy Spirit through the Bible, I would have no point of reference regarding what is right or wrong. I would not be able to know what hurts others or myself. More importantly, I would not know what hurts God. With His grace, I am able to know His will and to do things that will please Him. When I do these things, I will not hurt others out of my own sinful self-interest.
Will I be able to avoid hurting other completely? No. However this is my aim: Rom 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all. (RSV) According to 1st Peter, I won’t be able to do that, especially when others heap abuse on me and anyone who wants to live a godly life. However, I will be able to stand and declare as Paul did. Acts 24:16 So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward God and toward men. (RSV)
One way of doing this is to remember that it isn’t my job to convict the world of sin and to clean it up. My job is to share the good news of Jesus Christ and do it with words if necessary. My life should reflect my belief and my life should match up with what I say.
I need to warn those who are still caught in the ways of the world. They don’t realize that they will have to give an account to Jesus who will judge them. They are currently dead in their sins. (How intolerant of me for saying that.) They will be judged and unless they respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, repent of their sins, and turn their lives over to Jesus, they will end up in hell. (Oops another intolerant attitude.) If they respond then their spirits will be made alive and they will demonstrate that by no longer living the way they are now or the way I did. I will know that I have done the right thing.