In the beginning, the apostle Peter did not get it either. When Jesus was revealing who He was and the nature of His ministry and kingdom, Peter did not always understand. Peter would make great declarations, such as “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” (Matthew 16:16). Then, he would proceed to feel the need to correct Jesus, when Jesus stated that He would suffer and be killed, which resulted in this response from Christ, “Get behind me Satan!” (Matthew 16:23). Peter did not yet fully understand that Jesus’ kingdom was “not of this world,” and that there were certain things that would not find fulfillment until Christ’s final return in glory.
Now, years later, Peter finds himself in the position of reminding the readers of his letter that they are not home yet. This earth was not their final resting place and the fulfillment of all their earthly and eternal desires. From the text of 1 Peter, it is apparent that the letter recipients were undergoing persecution. There was probably discouragement among them, as they struggled to understand their circumstances and why things were sometimes so hard or just did not make sense.
So, Peter starts off his letter by addressing these brothers and sisters in Christ as “exiles.” (1 Peter 1:1). An exile, in this sense, refers to someone who is living in a foreign land. They are a stranger or pilgrim in a place that is not their home. They are living among a foreign people who may not understand them, may see them as very different, and who may even hate and despise them. That can be a very tough place to be.
Peter’s letter is written to help them understand this and to also offer them hope. It is given to help them keep life in perspective – that this life is temporary, as are the struggles that come with it. There is an eternal hope and a glorious inheritance that awaits those who follow Christ. And that they can know the grace and peace of Christ in the midst of these temporary struggles on this journey in a foreign land.
As followers of Christ today, we are all exiles as well. As we strive to live a life that honors God, we are faced with many obstacles, pitfalls, and struggles as well. We face many struggles that are common to all who live on this earth. At other times, we go through suffering and persecution because we follow Christ. However, there are also times when we find ourselves too at home in this temporary place. We become too enamored with temporary trinkets and pursuits that do not draw us closer to God and may even pull us further away.
These are the things, among others, that we will find presented to us in this journey through the book of 1 Peter. We will be offered hope, and also called to humility. We will be reminded to be at home in Christ, while we walk in a land that is not our home. We will be reminded that we have a living hope, here and now, and also waiting in eternity. That “the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:10-11)
Together for His glory…