From Chris A
1 Peter 1: 1-21
The passage from 1 Peter today is addressed to people in exile, in fact, near places near the conflict zones in eastern Turkey and Syria. And he uses this refugee status to relate a story of massive time-scale; he writes to living Christian people in the present tense, but time expands dramatically on both sides of this portion of the letter. In the past he narrates Christ’s death and resurrection, the presence of Christ’s spirit in the prophets predicting “the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories,” and Christ being “foreknown before the foundation of the world.” In the future he looks toward “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” This is a narrative that places demands on the exiled and gives them hope. But it honestly puts them a bit betwixt and between.
I can’t say that I have ever been exiled per se (not in any official way). But I do have difficulty telling people where I am from. And I have worked with refugees, and one of the central questions in their minds are: “will I go back?; can I go back?” or “will I stay?; can I stay?” and “what will be better?” The answers to these questions determine the trajectory of their lives, the decisions they make, and the care of their families.
I was driving back from a meeting last night, and the talk on the radio was about immigration and refugees (you can probably guess why). A man from a refugee non-profit made the point that in war zones, there are no “safe zones.” It was so obvious, and now that I reflect on it, so profound. Peter describes Christian living in the light of the gospel not only from the perspective of having a home displaced, but also as a place full of trials. Peter tells us to prepare “our minds for action," and to nurture fearful holiness. “Conduct yourselves with fear,” Peter writes, “throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ.” There are no safe zones. But Peter assures us that God stands watch over our souls: “by God’s power [we] are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Our passage home has been paid for in blood by a man we have not met in any conventional way: “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
We too are in exile. Away from our former lives, living in the trials, but “born again to a living hope.” We can neither return to the “futile ways of or fathers,” nor stay comfortably in this world of conflict, or go (yet). But we will go home “in the last time.” In fact, God will bring God's home to us. And God has implanted a bit of Godself in us through our new birth, an “imperishable” seed in our souls “through the living and abiding word of God.” We have been given that bit of God, that just like Jesus, death can’t hold.
The Spirit lets us get whiffs of the aroma of eternity. And when I have been closest to God, the smell has made me homesick. So I sit here in exile, betwixt and between, in fear (and not enough holiness), longing for a home I have never seen with a savior I love but have never laid eyes on. This is my holy exile of faith.