Life as an Exile
The furor over President Trump’s recent executive order related to immigrant processing often coalesces around international exiles and their treatment. Christians ought to think often about exiles for that is what we are in the world. Peter refers to the Christians to whom he is writing the first of his two letters retained in the Bible as “elect exiles.” Where they live is not their home.
I don’t think Peter is calling these Christians exiles because they have been ejected from their traditional or preferred homeland. I believe Peter identifies Christians as exiles because, once a person is born again by the working of the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ according to the will of God, we gain not only new and eternal life, but a new homeland, heaven, and earth becomes the place of our exile.
One of the most disturbing trends I see in this day is the effort of Christians to fit into a world where they no longer belong. Like square pegs trying to force themselves into round holes too small for their unique angles, their discomfort becomes disgruntled complaining, discontent, and for some, soul withering despair. Brothers, sisters, if we are no longer of this world, what benefit can we possibly seek trying to “fit into” this world? Ought we not put our efforts into “fitting into” the world to which we belong, the world of heaven, of hope, of grace, and of faith?
So Peter admonishes his audience in the second letter, ” For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love,” (2 Peter 1:5-7, ESV). In essence he instructs them to make every effort to cultivate now in their lives the character traits that will serve them in the presence of the eternal glory in heaven. He tells them to live in this world not as citizens of this world but as citizens of heaven. Don’t wait to be what you are becoming.
Jesus made it clear that if we follow the advice Peter gives, if we focus our efforts on being heaven citizens in a hell bound world, that this world and its people would oppose and reject us as it did Him. He told us that following Him to His Father’s house would mean that we would not “fit in” here.
Many are trying to fit in, or worse, trying to get the world to fit their expectations, as if the world can be made heaven by human effort. It is an exercise in futility. Rather we should focus on making sure that what the word of God demands of us is realized in our lives instead of avoiding that transformation by urging the world to be what we are not but should be, to do what we should do but do not do.