11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (I Peter 2:11-12).
Peter continues to urge his fellow believers, who are beloved in Christ, the consequences of what a life committed to holiness should look like. Harking back to I Peter 1:1, when he again refers to Christians as temporary residents of this world, what does a life of holiness involve?
First, it involves “abstaining from the passions of the flesh.” To abstain (ἀπέχω; anexo) means to keep yourself away from something. It means to personally and infinitely avoid something? What is it that we are to avoid?
We are to avoid the passions (ἐπιθυμία; epithumia), lusts or cravings which are evil. The flesh (σαρκικός; sarkikos) means worldly, base and sinful. Bodily desires, such as sexual intimacy, are not wrong in themselves, but can become so when perverted by man’s sinful nature or flesh. These desires not only include sins committed by the body, but also attitudes of the mind and emotions.
These desires battle within us. The phrase “which war against your soul” refers to one of three areas of conflict believers in Christ battle: the soul. The other two are the fallen world and the devil.
The word war (στρατεύω; strateueo) means battle, warfare and the life of a soldier. Each believer is engaged in a war (Galatians 5:16-21). The Apostle Paul called it a good battle (I Timothy 1:18). He also said God has given us weapons to fight this battle (2 Corinthians 10:4). This battle is fought in our minds, emotions and will. It is a battle for our loyalty: either to God or Satan.
As we live in a sinful world which is not our home, let us daily resolve to no longer live as if this world, with its sinful desires, is our home. Let us be distinctively different from the world in what we consider as holy attitudes and behavior.
We may begin by evaluating what we read, what we watch on television, and what we search for on the Internet in comparison to Scripture. Do we find ourselves increasingly in agreement with what we expose our minds to? Everything we see, hear, and think about must be biblically evaluated.
It won’t be easy, but you know what, no battle ever fought and won was, or is, easy.
Soli deo Gloria!