1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:
May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright (c)2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. http://www.esv.org
Peter opens his letter by referring to God’s people as “elect exiles” (1 Peter 1:1). They are God’s people, chosen “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,” and they are exiles, scattered across the world. On Sunday morning we reflected on the significance of being exiles and strangers in this world. Let’s explore how this identity helps us respond to the growing sense of loneliness that we feel in our culture.
Chad reminded us on Sunday that our exile has a story. Ever since Genesis 3 people have lived with an aching loneliness and a longing for home. Adam and Eve were banished from the garden, and God’s people were later banished from the land of promise. Being wanderers is nothing new. We may feel lonely when we are young, old, single, married, with or without friends. But however we feel it, do we understand our loneliness in the context of God’s broader story? If our sense of estrangement is bound up with God, then the healing of that condition must come from Him as well. The Bible reminds us that the Lord doesn’t leave us in exile, and He doesn’t bring us out from a distance. The life of Jesus Christ was a life of exile: from the glories of heaven to the dirt of a stable; from the comforts of home to the perils of ministry; from the praise of angels to the jeers of Golgotha. With every step from the incarnation to the cross, Jesus became an outsider so that we might become children of God. He overcame our exile by sharing it, and He conquered our curse by bearing it. As we experience loneliness, can we draw perspective from the journey of Christ? He was utterly rejected in order that we would never be. He was utterly abandoned so that we might know that He is always with us. Do we see our exile in light of the exile of Christ?
Exile always rings like a curse in the Old Testament, but the journey of Christ has given our life as strangers great purpose. We are still displaced, but we are no longer alone. Loneliness and separation have been eclipsed by intimacy and connection. We are united with Christ and with the people of God. To what end? The Holy Spirit is weaving us together to encourage us but also to impact the world. A world of wanderers should be able to look at the church and see a different kind of community. We are on the way to a better country, an enduring city. We have the hope for which the world is looking, but do we have the joy that invites outsiders to join us? What would it mean to live faithfully as elect exiles? May the Lord help us live in such a way that strangers to His grace might one day become members of His family.