I have a three-year-old parrot that lives in my house. It’s actually quite entertaining. His hearing is impeccable, and his comprehension is impressive. On a regular basis, my wife and I will be talking about something random when we hear our phrases repeated – sometimes phrases that we never knew or intended to be heard by another and usually at the most inopportune time possible. More than that, our parrot doesn’t just repeat the words that we say, but he also repeats the attitude behind it as well! Whether we are at home or out and about, we have to be careful when our parrot is around because our household – like yours – can talk about things that just don’t need to be repeated outside of a family context.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, our little parrot doesn’t have feathers, a beak, or wings but has instead blonde hair, a contagious smile, and legs that carry him everywhere at a full sprint! And with all of that comes a set of ears that hear everything (though they don’t always listen…) and a mind that remembers everything (though he doesn’t always understand it). My son is hearing and repeating all sorts of things – some that make me laugh out loud and send up a silent prayer that the Lord will intervene with some kind of supernatural, situation-specific amnesia (parents of preschoolers know what I mean…)!
“Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable…”
Every day my son is a witness to two adults who confess that Jesus is King of every area of their lives though he doesn’t understand what that means. He doesn’t understand that because, in New Testament theological terms, he is “Gentile” – a term that broadly describes those who are not God’s people. What he sees and hears from us is something different than what he knows to believe and be. And what he sees and hears in us is forming an understanding of who Christ is and how to live for Him.
Now, if it weren’t for our God of grace (1 Peter 5:10), the pressure of that truth would be immense! But true it remains. What my son is learning right now from what he sees and hears is a lesson about God he will have with him for the rest of his life. After all, this may be (we hope!) the only pandemic he’ll ever encounter. Yet in a year where there are riots, injustice, racial tensions, Supreme Court decisions that are significant to Christian orthodoxy and orthopraxy, a presidential election, and a pandemic – the Whitney household is full of conversations that are teaching my son, whether I realize it or not, how Christians think, speak, and feel. What he hears me say about these things, what he sees me do with these ideas, and how he watches me feel during these conversations will echo in his mind in the days ahead: “This is how Christians conduct themselves”
In a nutshell: My son is watching my conduct and learning – either to reflect Christ as King or learning something else.
But this call on me as a dad is for a purpose – it is missional. My son does not yet know Jesus Christ. He knows me. And so, the reason God is calling me to keep my conduct honorable right now is simple:
“so that…they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”
“… on the day of visitation” is a way of saying, “When they receive Jesus as well.” So Peter tells the people who are exiles and sojourners (2:11) as Christians, “Act honorably, so that when people who do not know God receive and believe the Gospel, they’ve seen Christ alive in someone already.”
Right now, the little person in my house that doesn’t know Jesus Christ does know people who know Him, and he is watching to see the difference that Christ makes. One day (by the grace of God) salvation will be extended to my son. In that day, I hope he will find that the life he found in Christ he saw in us. I hope he’ll be able to say, “God is good! God has visited me and saved me, and I know what that looks like because I saw it in you.”
There are really hard things happening all around us. Today, we get to live in a time where the difference Christ makes in the life of a believer should be obvious. Whether it’s those in your home or those outside of your home, God has a missionary purpose behind your conduct. Act honorably. Live in a way that loudly proclaims that you love Jesus most and love others more. And, perhaps, one day God will visit those around you. And in that day they will say, “God is good! I know what this is, because I saw it in you.”
How, today, can you live in a way that honors Jesus and others?