Today’s reading begins by calling us to “conduct ourselves honorably amongst the Gentiles, so that…they may glorify God.” In other words, the lives we lead are meant to attract people to God, not push them farther away. The church has not always done a very good job of that, to be sure.
As we move into the holiday season, we will not doubt spend time with people who do not believe as deeply as we do, and perhaps who do not believe at all. For them, the holidays may simply be about shopping, eating, drinking, and a chance to take a nice trip to warmer climates or maybe get in some skiing out west.
Running into these folks at work, parties, our neighborhoods, on the roads, in the stores, and so on means that we will have ample occasions to put this principle into practice. I’d suggest that we commit ourselves right now to putting this principle into practice and make the most of the opportunities that will no doubt be given us.
As the passage goes on, it tells us how we can do this by living with courtesy, honor, and respect for authority. I expect we’ll have plenty of chances to be gracious, well-mannered, and appropriately submissive (not insisting on our own way might be one way of thinking about that) in our dealings with one another.
The passage closes with a reflection on all God has done for us in Christ Jesus. I hope that all of us will take time today to reflect on that, and to appropriately and intentionally express how grateful we are for God’s love and all the blessings that flow from it. It also gives us one last image of how we are meant to live in Christ: we will not retaliate when people hurt us. We’ll probably have a chance to put that into practice over the holidays too, won’t we?
Finally, I love the last image, of Christ as the “shepherd and guardian of our souls”. It is the image of a God who wants the best for us, who we can trust to care for us even when we don’t know how to care for ourselves. It is a God we would do well to spend time with and learn from and love.
In the midst of the hustle and bustle of this holiday season, may we make time to do just that.