Peter’s words to the believers in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) are important words for us today. He addresses his letter to the “elect exiles of the dispersion” (1 Peter 1:1). They are far from their true home (the new earth) and must live for their inheritance, “the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). The fullness of their salvation waits for his return. He writes this of their responsibility as exiles in a foreign and hostile land:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.1 Peter 2:9–12 ESV
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
Peter explains what makes them exiles in a strange land: they are a chosen group of people, a holy nation. He describes them as a royal priesthood with a specific mission: to proclaim the greatness of our God and Savior. God took a people who were natives of this world and made them into his people, which transformed them into aliens who no longer belong to this world, but to the world to come. Followers of Jesus become sojourners and exiles—temporary residents—in this world.
Peter gives them instructions for how to live as temporary residents. They must abstain from the passions of the flesh while keeping their conduct among the nations honorable. The result of living as citizens of a very different kingdom is that “on the day of visitation” they will glorify God. God’s glory will be revealed through their conversion to Jesus when the Lord “visits” them. The day of visitation may refer to either the day the Spirit of God causes them to be born again (1 Peter 1:3) or to the day of judgment. In either case they glorify God on account of their salvation.
We are all sojourners and exiles in this world. This means we hold to national identity loosely and to our citizenship in heaven tightly. We must live in such a way that we point others to the “excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light”.
As we pray today, let’s pray for one another. Pray for strength to overcome temptation, to abstain from the passions of our flesh. Let’s pray for one another to reject the lies of the evil one, the lies that promise to fulfill our every desire yet fail to ever provide anything lasting. Let’s pray that we each recognize that we are truly a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation—a people for God’s own possession. And let’s pray for those with whom we interact, that they may see God’s work in us and be moved by his Spirit to repent and believe and experience that same amazing grace that we have.