"This world is not my home, I'm just a-passing through...."
Remember that little song? There's a lot of truth there!
Let's refresh our memories of the first two verses in Peter's letter:
Peter was writing to believers who were scattered throughout the northern regions of what we now call Turkey. It's possible that these were members of small churches founded by converts from Pentecost when Peter preached -- they could have traveled home and spread the good news of the gospel in their home towns. They could have become Christians as a result of journeys to the area by Peter, or perhaps they were converted by Christians from nearby regions who heard Paul preach. (He was forbidden by the Spirit to go into Asia, and into Bithynia.)
It's also possible that these were believers who had left the larger church communities, especially that of Rome, because they hoped to escape the persecution they saw coming.
At any rate, Peter uses a Greek word, "diaspora," which means scattered. The scattered people of God were both Jewish and Gentile, because we see many references in Peter's letter to Old Testament passages; we also see references that point to Gentiles in chapters 1, 2, and 4.
Another interesting word that Peter uses is "aliens," or in some translations, "exiles." To some people, this conjures up images of creatures from other planets, with unusual skin colors and several antennae. (Grin) What Peter is talking about is that we are both foreigners and temporary residents of this world.
Have you ever traveled far from home? Perhaps to a country where the language and the customs were very different from your own? Probably the local people are just as interested in watching and listening to you, as you are in observing them -- so different! If we try to speak a language unfamiliar to us, we sound out of place; if we try to join them in their activities, we are awkward.
One of the words that Peter uses most is the Greek word, "anastrophe." He actually uses it six times in I Peter, and twice more in II Peter! And both of those are fairly short letters! It's only found five other times in the whole of the New Testament..... it means way of life, or behavior.
Here is the point that I believe Peter is trying to make.....as believers in Christ, our conduct and behavior should stand out in the same way that we would stand out if we visited a different country. As Christians, we don't belong to this world. Jesus prayed this:
So, let's make one thing clear, here. And I know that this goes against what some folks say. They think you need to talk like unbelievers and act like them, in order to bring them to the Lord. Nope! Peter clearly tells us that our behavior should be different from the residents of this world. Look over in chapter two....
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (I Peter 2:9)The King James says a "peculiar" people! But as the coach says, "Listen up!" That doesn't mean weird! It means distinct.
Let that sink in a minute. Believers should stick out like sore thumbs. We should stand out as Godly people in a corrupt, ungodly world!
But before someone misunderstands what we're talking about, let's make sure we are all on the same page....this doesn't mean that we are to become hermits, either! We aren't supposed to withdraw from the world, to shrink away from it, and to avoid it. How can we witness to others if that is the case? (Grin) Peter is telling us that we should live in the world and be commendable people. People of integrity, of such wonderful behavior and personality that we draw people to us, and they ask why we are different.
Remember up there where we said another meaning of "alien" was temporary residents? We're thinking pilgrims, not settlers. Our real home, our permanent home, is in heaven. There are several times in Peter's letter that he mentions "during our stay on earth," and "for a little while." This is especially comforting when we are suffering for our faith.
Oh, believer, do you look around you at wicked folks who seem to be doing really well? They seem to have lots of money, and they have a smile to go with their possessions.....let me tell you, that smile is probably pasted on, because wealth does not bring happiness! But I know, our human side looks at that and wonders, "Is it really worth it? I'm trying so hard to follow Christ...." But let's not lose sight of the fact that eternity is directly ahead of us. And though we may suffer, and the wicked may prosper for now, that day is coming when it will all be made right, just as our Savior promised!
Yep, we are travelers. Temporary residents. Here on earth.
And we are looking for that great day when Jesus Christ returns from heaven -- for us!