Exiles in a strange land

Peter writes to what he calls “exiles of the dispersion, in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia” (1 Peter 1:1). Whether we’re speaking of someone kicked out of a social circle, or someone in a land not their own, the term “exile” carries a lonely ring.

Picture a little girl in school who has offended the other girls in some mysterious way. There they are in a huddle conspiring. There she is, some distance away, looking at her feet, all alone. She has been exiled. The tragedy of being an exile is magnified when one becomes an exile in his own land, the land of his birth. Suddenly one moves from a citizen to one whose rights have been stripped away.

Peter uses terms such as “sojourners” and “exiles,” and urges his readers to “abstain from the passions of the flesh, which war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11). One recalls the Star Trek characters known as the “Borg” whose ominous line was “resistance is futile.” Christians are pilgrims, strangers in a land not our own, and the world, Borg-like in its menace, demands conformity.

Witness our little exiled schoolgirl. She will be asked to pay a heavy price to reenter the social group that she has offended. And, what’s more, in her lonely little heart she desires that return profoundly.

But what if the exiles, as they file into the new land, as they are shoved across to the perimeters of society, as they begin to search for scrap metal, wood, and so on to make their shelters, what if they had some leaders who gather them round to remind them: “You are a distinct people; you have a proud heritage. At the moment, we are in a desperate condition, but remember who you are, remember where your real home is, and work for the day you can go back there!”

That’s what Peter is doing: He is telling his readers to keep their standards high. This is not your country; you are citizens of another country!

* We are not guaranteed continual, perpetual approval from our society. I sense a mounting sense of antagonism in our surroundings. Our stand on homosexuality, our ability to pray in public places, our ideals honored, even Christians first amendment rights are being challenged. Atheists and opponents to Christianity are expressing their opposition in increasingly ugly and aggressive ways. Are we ready for this?

* To those who are “offended” when a Christian ideal is expressed in public, please understand that Christian sensibilities are offended all the time on television, billboards and conversation.

Picture our little girl in exile again. Two other girls approach. They are also exiled. They consult with her. Let’s form our own circle. “Let’s not surrender to the unconscionable demands of the ‘in crowd.’ Let’s have some principles of our own. We will be different.”

God calls us to a huddle, too, and demands that we set high standards – “be holy as he is holy” (1 Peter 1:16).

I understand the fear we feel of being rejected, but believe me, the price of assimilation is too high, and what is more, please know this, we have each other!

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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