A Foreign Residence

Had another conversation the other day with someone longing to just get back to “normal.” But, I countered, what if this is normal? This season, this insanity, this instability, masks on, six feet apart — what if this is normal? Then shouldn’t we lean in, move on, and, renewing our desire to follow our Master, put on our masks and go out and make disciples? Not recklessly. Not defiantly. But faithfully. Obediently. Trustingly. I’m thinkin’ . . .

And maybe part of what’s at play is how much we view this world as our “normal” rather than just a foreign residence.

Peter’s writing to believers whose lives are anything but “normal.” Exiles of the Dispersion (1Pet. 1:1), they’re dealing with increasing persecution to the point of having to leave houses, hometowns, and how they once lived. And as I took note of yesterday, Peter doesn’t tell them to just hang in there, but exhorts them to be holy as God is holy (1Pet. 1:14-16) — a big charge in a tough season. And this morning’s reading picks up where yesterday’s left off:

And if you call on Him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

(1Peter 1:17-19 ESV)

The time of your exile, that’s the phrase that captures my thoughts this morning.

At first I wanted to equate it to our time of quarantine. These past months of being restricted from doing all that we would normally do in the way we would normally do it. But I dig into the word exile a bit deeper and I’m reminded that the reference isn’t just to my upset relationship to my regular routine, but it’s actually my assumed posture to my surrounding world. It has the idea of dwelling in a strange land, of sojourning. As Strong’s points out, the word exile comes from another word which means foreign residence.

So, if whatever we consider our last “normal” was only dwelling in a foreign residence anyhow — a place that isn’t really our home — then shouldn’t we always be prepared to pull up stakes and move on to our next foreign residence, to our next normal? A lot easier said than done, I know, but if anybody should have an unearthly resiliency shouldn’t it be those who don’t see themselves as of this earth, but who look forward to a normal and a place” whose designer and builder is God” (Heb. 11:9-10)? (Hoping this makes sense . . .)

And as I chew on these verses, far from hunkering down and waiting for our old normal to return, we are to “conduct ourselves” in our current normal. Literally “to turn upside down.” That seems appropriate! Who isn’t’ feeling like, at least to some degree, their world’s been turned upside down. But isn’t that the way of the sojourner, as well? Having to go this way then that. To deal with this reality than the next reality?

And what liberates us? What untethers us from whatever normal is? We have been ransomed from “the futile ways” of this world. From its values and its priorities. From its inherent weakness because it relies on human wisdom and strength to achieve treasures and trophies which are ultimately perishable. Instead we’ve been ransomed by the precious blood of Christ. Ransomed by Christ to be raised up and seated with Christ “in the heavenly places” (Eph. 2:6). Chew on that a bit . . . seated in heavenly places. That’s our home! That’s our unchanging normal! That’s where we settle in and settle down and draw on the spiritual resources to deal with whatever “new normal” we must while sojourning on this earth.

So, weary pilgrim, conduct yourselves with reverent awe of the One who has redeemed you, even as your get turned upside down, round and round, in this foreign residence.

By His grace. For His glory.

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