Beloved, I exhort you as aliens and exiles, to abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul 1 Peter 2:11
Abstain – Sometimes you just can’t avoid grammar if you really want to understand the words. Of course, our society is not inclined to agree. We have devolved to functional literacy, a place where “I hope u ken reed dies” is considered good enough to pass. This will never do for Christians. Our beliefs require knowing the depth and preciseness of God’s word. We need to study to show ourselves approved. So today we have a little grammar lesson. Trust me, it will be worth it.
“Abstain” is the Greek word apechomai. It comes from a combination of the Greek verb echo (to have) and apo (from). The idea is to hold off from, like a ship held off from the shore. But the grammar adds something else, something important. This particular word is in the middle voice. English doesn’t have a middle voice. We have only the active voice (where I do something) and the passive voice (where something is done to me). But Greek has a place in between, a place where what I do is particularly and especially important and beneficial to me. I do it (active voice) but I do it for myself (middle voice). That’s what Peter is telling us here. Hold off lust, not because the rules tell you to but because it is in your best interest to do so. Keep yourself at a distance because it is important for your sake. Forget the rules. Do what’s good for you.
Of course, there are action implications in this word. First, you have to do something. You can’t rely on someone else to remove all of these damaging things from your life. In fact, you can’t even expect God to take care of this for you. You have to act! God won’t do what He knows you need to do. So cast away from the shore. Separate yourself from these sins. Don’t go near them.
Secondly, God doesn’t tell you to take this action just because He says so. He doesn’t send you a set of godly living rules to keep just because they are written in stone. God tells you to act, to push away from these things, because it’s in your best interest. Staying clear of sin isn’t punishment. It’s freedom. It’s the best thing for your life. The motivation to stay away is personal.
If you have been trying to live the godly life because someone gave you a rule book, you will fail. Rules aren’t motivating. But personal well-being is. Even better, when I make the choice to push away from the shore, I discover that God is right there with me, pulling up the anchor. He is ready to help as soon as I am ready to act. Why? Because He wants what’s best for me too.
If you’re struggling to overcome some inner battle with the pull of the world, you have to act. Cast yourself away. Don’t wait. Do it for yourself. And look for God to show up in the process.