Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Sojournings: 1 Peter 1:1-2

Today is my last day in America... at least for some time anyway. Although I am enthusiastically looking forward to life in Istanbul, there are a lot of conflicting emotions stirring around in my soul. Dozens of close relationships will be dramatically altered by the distance and all the comforts of routine and familiarity which I cherish so much are already evaporating. Coupled with the stress of moving and the uncertainties of a new culture, it is enough to overwhelm all excitement with anxiety.

In the midst of this emotional dissension 1 Peter 1:1-2 has been an encouragement.

1. Peter, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 accoding 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.

Peter is writing to the "elect exiles"; other translations say "temporary residents" or "sojourners". Peter is reminding his readers that wherever they may live, their citizenship is in the kingdom of God, and until this reality is fully realized in the new creation, they are exiles. The writer of Hebrew explores a similar theme when he writes "For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come."

However, this doesn't mean that Christians withdraw from society. The Prophet Jeremiah told the exiles in Babylon to "seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare." (Jer 27:9) It seems counter-intuitive, but it is perfectly practical. Because we as believers are exiles who do not find our citizenship in nation-states we are free to invest in our communities even while we hope for something better.

So as I say goodbye to Louisville, which I have grown to love so dearly over the past 5 years, I am reminded that it is not where I look to for belonging or security. Instead I look to Jesus for my identity and his body, the church, for belonging.

One more cool thing: Bithynia, one of the places where some these exiles were dispersed, includes modern day Istanbul. This really personifies "grace and peace multiplied to you."

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