Never been a nomad, always had a place to hang my hat, a fixed address to go home to every night. Can’t really say I understand what it’s like to be an exile, a stranger in a foreign land–not even if you count my move to the U.S. (not that strange a land . . . most times) from Canada 15 years ago. But I’m thinking that for those Peter was writing to, being “strangers and sojourners” (YLT) in an increasingly hostile environment might have been enough to fill one’s plate.
But instead of Peter spurring on these weary and targeted travelers with gentle encouragements to keep on keep on sojourning, and to hang in there through each day’s pilgrimage, he instead lays on them a list of commands to obey.
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
(1Peter 2:11-14, 17 ESV)
Not enough that they would have to wander around in some strange world with all its strange customs, but they were to keep in check any desires to embrace that culture in order to satisfy their sensual desires or perceived physical needs. Not enough to endure the hostility of those with a drastically different worldview, but they were to accept the challenge of living in such a way that, while they might be opposed, there’d be no grounds to be accused. When it came to the crazy big kahuna in Rome who was increasingly targeting them for persecution, they weren’t told to do everything they could to oppose him, but instead be subject to him. And to honor his people. While they committed to actively loving one another.
That’s a lot to take on!
Like I said, you’d think it’d be enough just trying to be a sojourner and an exile without having to say, “No” to the flesh, “Watch me” to the world, and “I yield” to the government.
So how come Peter adds these commands to obey onto a journey that’s already pretty demanding to embrace?
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
(1Peter 2:9-10 ESV)
They were more than just pilgrims in a foreign land. More than just wanderers trying to find the next place to wander to. More than just a nomadic band with no flag to pitch and nowhere to pitch it. Though once they were not a people, now they were God’s people.
And that’s what I’m chewing on this morning, our identity as God’s people.
Called out of darkness. Translated into light. Given heavenly citizenship, but for now left to travel in a world not our home, we are God’s people. A chosen race. A royal priesthood. His very own, blood-bought possession. That’s who we are. So that’s how we should act.
Our circumstance doesn’t define us. The prevailing culture around us can’t label us. The darkness no longer has any claim on us. Rather, we are God’s people.
Thus, says Peter, by God’s enabling, live like it. By God’s power, be who you are. For God’s kingdom, be ambassadors during your sometimes barren wandering.
Lot of things I don’t know, but this I do know, I’m a child of the King. A living stone in His spiritual house. A member of His holy priesthood.
I am God’s people.
By His grace. For His glory.