The early church was confident that Jesus would return before long as the Lord of lords. Peter describes the coming as a cosmic cataclysm in which the entire universe would explode in a fiery mass, dissolving the elements with fervent heat. The obvious moral question is, “Since life as we know it is about to end, what sort of people ought we be?” (2 Peter 3:11). Peter answers, “Our lives should be holy and dedicated to God.” It makes sense that, in view of the cosmic conflagration about to take place, we ought to be living in a way that reflects the beauty and goodness of our Heavenly Father.
The text speaks of a life-style that is holy (i.e. apart from sin) and godly (reflective of the nature of God). Once again we need to remind ourselves that what is being held before us is a model or goal for living. It pictures a life conditioned by the fact that since the end of all things is near, it follows that heaven should become our guide for living. The conclusion is too logical to be denied. The life of the believer is to be holy and godly. The fact that Peter, along with others in the early days of Christianity, was mistaken in the literal sense of time does not alter the fact that we who are destined for heaven ought to live in a way that reflects our eternal home.
I grant that the normal congregation in today’s world falls short of this ideal. Wherever people care deeply about the spiritual is the spot where Satan is dong his best to create division. So instead of badmouthing those congregations, would it not be better to pray for them. Perhaps God will provide the healing necessary for a more positive congregational health. Jesus promised that not even the “gates of hell” could prevail against his church, i.e., those who acknowledge, as Peter did, that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God (Matt. 16:18). So let’s not dwell on the trouble in that little church down the road.
Every general principle is easier to understand when illustrated by a particular example. Here is one: God sees us not in terms of what we are but in what we can be. Christ died for our sins and God sees us in him. What if we viewed every person in our world in terms of what they can become. I am sure that would help us to carry out our obligation to live a “holy and godly life.”