I grew up in Millard, Nebraska, which at that time boasted only about 1,000 residents. As a child, I could ride almost anywhere on my bike without supervision, and I knew practically everyone in town. It was a place where I felt safe, comfortable, and completely at home.
Because we were a close-knit community, a stranger visiting Millard stood out like a sore thumb. And, as children, we were taught to view people we did not recognize with a parental- endorsed degree of suspicion. As an adult, I understand that all strangers aren’t dangerous; I also know how to spot one as they struggle to navigate busy Chicago streets.
We easily forget that we are all strangers. Scripture refers to us as God’s chosen ones, aliens in this world (1 Peter 1:1). When asked where “home” is, we might recite our most recent mailing address. But Peter reminds us that our citizenship is not of this world. Instead, we are children of God with an inheritance reserved in heaven (v. 4).
We may often feel ill at ease in a place we are tempted to consider our home. The pull of wanting to fit in, or the assumption that the world’s culture will align with our Christian values, can distract us from our true home. First Peter was written to believers living in a similar situation. The young church had grown and been well-established in several cities, but it was also facing an increasing amount of persecution. Believers faced discrimination, slander, threats, and even imprisonment.
Peter’s letter encouraged these believers to stay focused on Jesus even when life got difficult, reminding them of the hope they have in Christ. Their trials were temporary. “In this you greatly rejoice, though now, for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (v. 6). As exiles in this world, we also place our hope in the One who saves us, keeps us faithful in the face of trial, and assures us of our eternal home.
With our feet planted on earthly soil, it is tempting to fix our minds and hearts on the here and now, to believe that this world is our home. But Peter reminds us that we are on a journey. We are strangers, exiles, aliens. Yet through it all, Peter calls us to follow Christ’s example, be faithful and humble, and live with hope.