1 Peter: Strangers and foreigners

This is the second in a series on 1 Peter. The series begins here.

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To all God’s chosen people:

This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (1 Peter 1:1).

Peter wrote to believers who lived in Roman provinces of the area that is today Turkey. It’s generally thought that the majority of the people he was addressing were Jewish Christians, “sojourners” and  “temporary residents” of countries other than their homeland. Israel’s turbulent history had led to the scattering of the Jewish people, and many Jews lived as exiles from their spiritual homeland. They were separated from the place of their origin, living in a culture not their own, strangers in a country under pagan rule.

Peter might just as well have written, I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the United States, Canada, South Africa, India, Germany, the Philippines, and the United Kingdom. These words are also for us, now, in whatever part of the world we live.

We hear the parallel for Christians today—geographically, we’re living in a country other than the Kingdom to which we give our highest allegiance. These physical bodies were birthed here, in a worldly country under an earthly rule. But our spiritual births made us citizens of another kingdom, citizens revering the Authority above all other authorities. We sojourn here, but belong to that other kingdom.

And Christ’s kingdom is as unknown and incomprehensible to the rest of the world now as it was to Pilate when he questioned Jesus’ claim of being a king.

We belong to Jesus the King, but we’re living as strangers and foreigners scattered in countries around the globe.

As he wrote this, was Peter remembering the prayer he heard Jesus utter the night before our Lord died?

“Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world…I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do…I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message” (John 17:11, 15, 16, 20).

This grabs my heart every time I read it. Jesus prayed for me! He prayed for you. He prayed for all of us who belong to His Kingdom but sojourn as strangers in this world. He identified us with Himself when He said we no longer belong here, anymore than He did. That has great weight if we let it sink into our hearts and minds.

A mindset that echoes Jesus words and says, “We are not of this world,” produces changes in our thinking and doing —
* We are not bound by the limits of this world.
* We know beyond seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, or touching.
* Our lives are governed by the standards Christ set for His people, not by the standards of whatever culture swirls around us.
* Our ultimate guide is the Spirit of Christ, not “modern” thinkers, trend setters, gurus , politicians, scientists, or dictators.

We follow Christ. His kingdom is not of this world; we, his followers, only live here as strangers and foreigners.

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