Although Peter is fully aware that his readers are facing difficult circumstances, he also knows that they face other dangers as well. These other dangers are connected to failing to live the Christian life. Probably he realised that ongoing harassment has the potential to diminish one’s devotion and it can affect our attitude to other things as well. Instead of falling into such wrong practices, Peter urges his readers to imitate Jesus.
We can see his call for imitation in verse 1 where he tells his readers to think as Jesus did. Peter regards such a step as a weapon in spiritual warfare because he says it is the equivalent of a soldier arming himself with the best weapon available. His exhortation is a reminder that the first place where the Christian loses a battle is in his way of thinking. What was the focus of the thinking of Jesus? It was to do the will of God, whatever it involved, and we know that in the case of Jesus it involved great suffering on behalf of his people. And here Peter tells his readers that they should live the rest of their lives on earth in obedience to the will of God.
When it comes to thinking about the will of God, we know that the phrase can mean different ideas. Here it does not refer to his secret will because we do not have any way of influencing it; his secret will refers to his eternal plan in which he foreordained whatever comes to pass. Nor does the phrase refer to his permissive will whereby he allows certain things to happen in his providence, although one can see how living under suffering is part of his permissive will. Of course, their situation in suffering was also his secret will for them. Instead the will of God here is his revealed will, that is, how he wants his people to live according to his Word.
In this short passage, Peter mentions three aspects of the revealed will of God and they are holy living (vv. 1-6), meaningful prayer (v. 7) and earnest brotherly love (vv. 8-11). We will think about the first aspect now.
It concerns the presence of sinful pleasure and Peter makes a contrast between what the Gentiles want to do and what God wants his people to do. The Gentiles want to live in uncontrolled license, especially in physical and immoral ways (v. 3). Hedonism is the technical term for such an outlook. It is important to realise that we were made to love pleasure, and sin has not removed that aspect of our humanity. Instead, what sin has brought about is intense love for sinful pleasures. We were made to find great enjoyment in God and in what he gives.
Peter notes that the lovers of pleasure will be surprised by those who think differently and will disparage them at least and even slander them as dangerous because they refuse to participate in activities that were often connected to religious rituals (v. 4). How should Christians respond to such people? The believers should remember that the lovers of pleasure will yet appear before the judgement seat of God. Doing so will fill us with compassion.