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Strangers in a Strange Land

In Peter’s first letter, he writes to Christians who are scattered or dispersed throughout the ancient provinces of Asia Minor. They are not in their own home, and are foreigners in a strange land. Many of them had Jewish roots, and shared a cultural history that was anchored to the bible’s Hebrew scriptures. That culture, in significant ways, could be radically different from the larger culture in which they were operating at the time they received word from Peter.

He emphasizes their foreignness in 1 Peter 2:11-12, where he urges them to refrain from worldly lusts and desires, and to live such good lives in the strange lands in which they were residing that the pagan inhabitants would see their goodness and glorify God, even if those same people were initially accusing them of doing wrong. Since they were sojourners, he implied, their stay was temporary and their true citizenship elsewhere.

Although most of us do not live in a land strange to us, Peter’s instruction to the scattered Christians of Asia Minor remains relevant 2000 years later. While the western world has been indelibly marked by Christian culture and history, it remains stubbornly separate from the Kingdom of God. As Christians, we are scattered throughout a foriegn world, and if we strive to imitate Christ’s example in this world, then we can expect to be seen as a strange people in a land that does not accept us (Matthew 10:22-23). But we must still live our lives in such a way that the goodness of God shines in all we do. Our foreignness should stand out to everyone so that God can be glorified in the contrast that exists between our goodness and the brokenness of a world that rejects his power and sovereignty.

The truth is that we are sojourners in this world. Our residence is temporary, and our citizenship isn’t here, but in Heaven (Philippians 3:20-21). So do as Peter instructs and separate yourself from desires that are stirred up by the values of the world. Those desires are in conflict with your spirit, and make it harder for you to live a life that demonstrates the contrast that exists between the goodness of God, and the lostness of the world.

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