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1 Peter 3:3-9

Lesson Focus

We have been reborn to new life in Christ. This rebirth makes us strangers in our own land.

Catching up on the Story

Have you ever felt out of place, like you don’t belong? Maybe you’ve moved to a new town, and things are done differently there, like when I moved from my native Lancaster County, PA, with its rolling hills of farmland with dairy cows and horse-drawn buggies of both the Amish and the Mennonites making their rhythmic clops along the pavement, to the barren wasteland, (comparatively speaking) of Oklahoma. It wasn’t just that the landscape and the weather were vastly different; the people with their culture were different.

In the halls of my high school, most people walked with their heads down, avoiding eye contact (that might have just been me, I think I tried really hard to fly under everyone’s radar) and at a quick pace.

Even in the grocery store where I worked, people did not converse with strangers. Just keep to yourself, get in, and get out. Now, people were friendly enough, just not unnecessarily so. And you didn’t ask for people’s opinions unless you really wanted to know because they would tell you, even if it hurt your feelings.

This is different from how things were done in Oklahoma. I got to the campus of Southern Nazarene University, and the pace was much different. People walked slowly and with their heads up. They made eye contact, smiled, and asked how you were doing.

I later learned that they weren’t concerned with how I was doing. It was only the expected greeting. I usually responded with how I was doing, and nobody seemed to care. In fact, they seemed a little confused as to why I was actually telling them how I was doing. People there were polite and nice but on a surface level.

And they talked funny. Yet, at the same time, they thought I talked funny too. I was a stranger in a strange land. Had it not been my choice to attend college there, it would have been as if I were in exile, knowing no one, seeking to be faithful to myself and my upbringing, but all the while desperately trying to navigate this new world so that I might fit in.

The author of 1 Peter greets his intended recipients from places like Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia as if they were exiles, strangers in a strange land. In the traditional sense, they were not actual exiles living in a land not of their birth. Nevertheless, we find out from Peter’s greeting that his friends are exiled because of whom they follow, the crucified yet resurrected Jesus of Nazareth.

By virtue of their being called, chosen, and set apart as holy by God so that they might be obedient followers of Jesus, they are exiles. By the way, Peter intends this letter to be read in many places, and the content he expresses is directed toward all who seek to follow Jesus. Being chosen and set apart as holy is not only for the super-spiritual but for all of us.

Peter sees his friends and fellow Christians as exiles because their commitment to following Jesus puts them at constant odds with the culture surrounding them. Joel Green, one commentator I read on 1 Peter, says this,

“Rather, these are people whose commitments to the lordship of Jesus Christ have led to transformed dispositions and behaviors that place them on the margins of respectable society. Their allegiance to Christ had won for them animosity, scorn, and vilification. Their lack of acculturation to prevailing social values marked them as misfits worthy of contempt” (Green, 196).

Peter assumes this to be the case for his intended readers, and if he were alive today, he would also assume this of us. We are exiles living in a strange land whose culture marginalizes us because we fail to allow it to shape us more than we have allowed Christ to shape us. Or, at least, that’s how it should be.

Peter’s letter, then, is aimed at helping us navigate such a world as God’s holy people living in exile.