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Practical Theology | Living the Exile Life

  • October 2022 Issue
Practical Theology

“Our outsider status should not make us feel sorry for ourselves. It is an indication that we are living like Christ.”

Do you ever feel like an exile in this world? Peter addressed his first letter to those he calls “God’s elect,” “exiles” who have been “scattered” (1 Peter 1:1). What did the apostle mean?

On the one hand, Peter was giving important clues about the letter’s original recipients. Commentator Karen Jobes believes they were Christians who had been deported from Rome and scattered throughout Asia Minor (see also Acts 18:2). The Roman historian Seutonius reported that the expelled Jews “had been continually stirring up trouble.” New Testament scholar Bruce Metzger suggests that these disturbances were “probably the result of agitation and rivalry between Jews and Christians.” Peter was probably writing to Christians who had been caught up in these expulsions and were living in Asia Minor.

However, Peter was also pointing to the status, mission, and lifestyle of everyone who belongs to Christ. When Peter describes Christians as elect, he reminds us that we are Christians by the grace of God.

As 1 Corinthians 1:30 says, it is “because of him that you are in Christ Jesus.” Identification with God often creates friction with those who reject Christ. Christians will feel like exiles or foreigners in a world that does not value Christ. In John 15:18–19, Jesus warned His disciples: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

Our outsider status should not make us feel sorry for ourselves. It is an indication that we are living like Christ. Peter uses scattered to describe this lifestyle because Christians live like resident aliens in a foreign country. Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). We should “abstain from sinful desires” and live “such good lives among the pagans” that unbelievers glorify God (1 Peter 2:11–12). Christians have been scattered for a purpose. We are sown like seeds in a field to bear fruit for God and to point an unbelieving world to Jesus Christ.

For Further Study

To learn more, read Aliens and Sojourners: Self as Other in Early Christianity by Benjamin H. Dunning (University of Pennsylvania).

BY Dr. John Koessler

John Koessler is Professor Emeritus of Applied Theology and Church Ministries at Moody Bible Institute. John authors the “Practical Theology” column for Today in the Word of which he is also a contributing writer and theological editor. An award-winning author, John’s newest title is When God is Silent: Let the Bible Teach You to Pray (Kirkdale). Prior to joining the Moody faculty, he served as a pastor of Valley Chapel in Green Valley, Illinois, for nine years. He and his wife, Jane, now enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan.

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