Monday, March 3, 2014

Pilgrims, Aliens, and Exiles

There are few ideas in the Bible that stand out to me like the call to be like Christ.  We are called to imitate him. Disciples follow their master in life and in death.  Our two God-ordained rituals both join us to Christ .  Baptism echoes Christ in every way.  Not only do we follow him in baptism, but in his death we die to sin and in his life we rise to life anew (Romans 6). In communion we take the very body and blood of our Savior as life into ourselves and our churches (John 6:52-59).  We are imitators of Christ. 

We talk about following Jesus a LOT around here but in the book of 1 Peter, Peter takes a unique look.  He identifies us (depending on your translation) as aliens, strangers, pilgrims, sojourners or exiles (1 Peter 1:1, 2:11).  Not names we readily embrace but certainly names that echo back to Jesus. 

Every alien has a home that he left, and every pilgrim a destination. Jesus left his eternal and heavenly home to come to earth.  We're no exception. Paul expresses the tension between his two homelands in 2 Corinthians 5 when he says that he would prefer to be at home with Christ rather than at home in his body. It resonated with Peter who will later point out how we are being made into a holy nation, a nation of princes and priests, a nation without borders whose King will return one day in victory (1 Peter 2:9). It resonates with us when we look around at our world with its sin and sorrow, when we stand at a funeral, when we weep at a divorce, when we rage against an illness.  We don't belong here anymore.

Another is that Jesus was really alien to the people he came in contact with everyday.  He must have seemed so strange.  His teaching, although full of authority, was not what attracted the crowds.  They came to see a "sign."  This was the guy who healed the blind, deaf, and paralyzed, who sent pigs careening off a cliff and who raised passing boys laid out on their funeral biers from the dead.  The multitudes were amazed by his bizarre behavior.  Although he rejected the super-righteous Pharisees in their hypocrisy, he was beloved of the sinners, tax collectors and unmentionables.  The most godly people I know are downright strange.  They love the unlovely and reject the acceptable.  (See these links of a couple of examples: An S for SuperChristianBigotry)  Like the crowds, sometimes I want to follow them around. Not only to see what will happen next, but also to see if some of it might rub off!

Pain & Sadness of Jesus Christ
 Later in the book, Peter focuses on another way Christ was an exile, in his rejection and suffering.  We follow him into the exile of suffering as well, and it's not a journey any of us are excited to take.  But from Peter's point of view, it's the path to glory; it's the road to the one we love. 
 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;  and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, (1 Peter 1: 6-8)

That's who we are and who are we called to be.  Join us as we read through 1 Peter.  Grab a Bible, read, study, think and be moved with us.  Join us to pray that we will all fulfill our identity as pilgrims, aliens and exiles.


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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