I once heard someone say, "Putting lipstick on a pig doesn't make her a debutante." I'm sure you've heard variations. The point is that the nature of any beast is certain to come out. A pig will act like a pig no matter how well you dress it up. That reminds me of a passage from Jeremiah: Can a leopard take away its spots? Neither can you start doing good, for you have always done evil." 13:23 (NLT). Jesus put it this way in Matthew 23:28 -- "Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness." You can put lipstick on a pig and it's still a pig. But when Jesus really comes into your life, He begins a transformation from the inside out. That's called change!
In I Peter 2:12, Peter admonishes us to maintain an "excellent lifestyle" among unbelievers in order that they might be attracted to the gospel. In the verses that follow, he applies that admonition to specific, practical situations. So often, though, the Christian lifestyle is characterized as a life of abasement and abstinence. You know the list: no smoking or chewing, no drinking, no dancing, no gambling, no secular music, no long hair or earrings on men, no pants or makeup on women, no, no, no! You get the picture.
As important as these "legals" are to some folks, they ARE mere externals. They can be used to fake a faith that doesn't really change a person. BUT, a personal relationship with the living Jesus can transform a person from the inside out. The excellent lifestyle Peter talks about involves an outward expression that grows out of an inner character. It's genuine, it's obvious, and it honors God. And it's impossible to fake. It's expressed in our relationships with the government (whether we agree politically or not), the society at large (whether they share our values or not), the church, and with God Himself. Peter tells us to be subject to those who govern, to always do the right (godly) thing, and to live as free people and servants of God. Then in v. 17, he tells us to Respect everyone, love our Christian brothers and sisters, fear God, and respect the king.
It's pretty simple! If we want to be biblical disciples in a society that increasingly resistant to what it believes are the tenets and values of the Bible, then live in a way that changes their perception. When relating to others, including those who do not share your faith or values, show them respect. The golden rule is not outdated. We're to treat others the way we want to be treated whether they treat us well or not.
When relating to fellow believers, let your love be unmotivated and undemanding. Jesus said, "By this, all men will know that your are my disciples, that you love one another." (John 13:35) Love doesn't require agreement on everything.
When relating to the God of the universe, honor Him as the Almighty God He is. Recognize that in HIS presence, we are deserving of death. It is only His love, His desire, His sacrifice, and His atonement that makes it possible for us not only to live, but to live eternally as His adopted children.
When relating to the government, be submissive in your citizenship. Be respectful of the laws and those who enforce them. Be respectful of leaders so long as it doesn't require a compromise of your faith. And in doing these things, the witness of your lifestyle just might attract someone to the Christ you love and serve.