By Hoyt Wilson
Pastor, Flatwoods Baptist Church, Holladay
All of us begin life as strangers. When forced from our mother’s womb, we enter an environment in which we are strangers. Hopefully, bonding with parents and becoming accustomed to the strange sights, sounds, and touch to which one is subjected will soon lead to one belonging. I Peter was written to Christians who needed to know how to function as a minority people in unfamiliar surroundings. Peter reminded them that they were foreigners and exiles among pagan people. As a baby is forced from the mother’s womb, they had been forced from their homeland, thus they were exiles and strangers. The first word of I Peter 2:12 was good advice — “live.”
They were still God’s people even though they were displaced. Jeremiah 29:4-7 would have been good advice to these exiles as it was to the exiles from Israel in Babylon. The letter from Jeremiah to the exiles in Babylon had such advice as build, plant, marry, and pray. They were to live. How were these exiles to live? They were to live as strangers and were to “… abstain from sinful desires which wage war against your souls.” That was the negative that was a warning. The positive that was more good advice was “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us” (I Peter 2:12, NIV).There is no substitute for Christians living godly lives. Living godly lives means more than refraining from sin. It also means one is to do good things that glorify God. One may live among pagans, but they need not live as pagans. Living good lives as strangers in a foreign land means that one lives under a different government.
Jesus said: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21 KJV). Thus, Peter said: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by Him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right” (v. 13). When in a foreign land it is necessary for one to remember they are guests. I Timothy 2:1-2 urges, “… first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” Obedience to law and respect for those in authority is necessary for those who are living as strangers. This was especially true for these strangers because Christians were often misunderstood.
They were often misunderstood because of their devotion to God, quality of life, and strange worship practices. That is why Peter wrote: “For so is the will of God, that with well doing you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men” (I Peter 2:15). “Well doing” included not letting their freedom in Christ serve as a covering for deliberately sinful conduct that harms others. Peter gave them five helpful commands: (1) honor all men; (2) love the brotherhood; (3) fear God; and (4) honor the king; and (5) servants be subject to your masters. There is no hint in this letter that these exiles and strangers were suffering for the faith in their pilgrimage in these new lands, but Peter’s advice was preparation for what would surely come. In a sense they would be strangers in any land because they were citizens of heaven living as strangers in foreign lands.