First Peter 1:1 calls Christians “elect exiles.” This is a remarkably paradoxical identity. We are “elect” (chosen by God), but we are also “exiles” (strangers and sojourners) in the world. We have been called out of the world to be the church in the world. We live in the world as exiles from the world, but also as children of the King. We live out our citizenship in the nation we are placed in as citizens of heaven.
As our nation continues to migrate away from cultural mores that reflect the worldview of biblical Christianity (see my previous post on the Death of Christendom), it is becoming easier for many Christians to despair. I think this is a grave mistake. As elect exiles, we are both chosen by God and exiles from the world. But in terms of our attitude and perspective, we can either live as God’s children in the world, or as outsiders from the world. Meaning, we can either focus on the fact that the culture around us is growing increasingly hostile toward what we believe, or we can live as Christians in the culture for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In my sermon on 1 Peter 1:1-2 yesterday, I concluded on this note. We can focus our attitude on the fact that we are exiles, living out of an “exile identity,” or we can focus our perspective on the fact that we are children of God through Jesus, living out our gospel-centered identity in culture. There is a huge difference between living out an “exile identity” and living out a “children of the King identity.” I think 1 Peter teaches us to live as children of the King, though we are exiled in the world.
Here is the difference:
- Fretting about how our culture isn’t following God.
- Fearing that our lives will get less comfortable as a result.
- Being dismayed or disillusioned at events that reveal that this world is lost and dead in sin without Christ.
- Insulating ourselves in close-knit, fearful subcultures, driven by anxiety that the world will infect us.
- Being defined by what we are against, rather than what we are for.
- Reviling and condemning culture, reacting to the threat we feel from it.
- Existing in fragmented community because we are driven by fear.
- Getting lost in the feeling of being dispossessed, cast out, not belonging.
- Not simply being aware that we are strangers in our world, but living in a prison of fear, hopelessness, and anxiety because we are exiles in our world.
Child of the King identity:
- Walking day by day in the living hope that is ours through Jesus Christ.
- Living in obedience to Jesus.
- Serving Christ, not our own comforts.
- Laying down our lives for one another, at peace and motivated by the Spirit of God.
- Engaged in our world, seeking the welfare of the city that God places us in.
- Aware of culture, but not in fear of culture.
- Not blindly consuming culture, but intentionally engaging culture with redemption in view.
- Blessing when we are cursed.
- Striving daily, as we trust in God through suffering.
- Living in united community as we engage Jesus’ mission together.
- Focused on being owned by God, belonging to him, in his redeemed community (the church).
- Lived out in hope, trust in God, obedience to Jesus, and redemptive engagement in our world.
Do you see the difference? It is a matter of attitude and perspective.
Exiles in the world, live as children of the King.