Refugees! We’ve been hearing about them in the news… we’ve seen the sad pictures of entire families from Syria who have fled their homes and are running for their lives. Many nations are rejecting them, building walls to keep them out, fearful of who they are – uncertain of the “unsavory elements” that may be among them. I’ve seen refugee camps in Middle Eastern countries I’ve visited! I can only imagine what the refugee experience would have upon a person!
My Bible reading today included the plight of refugees… The fact is, the epistle of 1 Peter was written to “exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Capadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1) – ancient countries now recognized as modern Turkey. 1 Peter was writing to suffering Christians who had experienced persecution for their faith. They had felt the sting of rejection, often viewed with suspicion, facing unjust accusations because of their commitment to the Kingdom of God, their lives were at risk, their families in danger, their property had been destroyed (even confiscated). And the sad fact was, some of the worst persecution had come from the religious community! Imagine the impact on your psyche – your self-concept and emotions!
It was to people like this, Peter writes His opening words… “To those who are elect exiles … according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with His blood. May grace and peace be multiplied to you!” (from 1 Peter 1:1-3 ESV)
What encouraging, affirming words! They were “elect”… they were God’s chosen people! “Foreknowledge”…. Their Heavenly Father was intimately aware of who they were, and what they were going through, and despite that (even because of that) in a special sense they were His chosen ones! They had been set apart in a special way (“sanctified” by the Holy Spirit) for obedience to Jesus Christ. And the, using Old Testament imagery, Peter reminded them that they had experienced the “sprinkling of His blood” – In other words Christ’s sacrifice as the “Lamb of God” had not only cleansed them from their sin, it had “set them apart as His own” in a very special way!
Sometimes we may feel like “exiles” – refugees because of our commitment to Christ. We can feel that way because of what friends, family, colleagues and neighbors say and do as we follow Christ. The broader culture has usually not embraced “the way of the cross!” There are also devoted followers of Jesus elsewhere in our world who are suffering today for their faith in Christ who would identify fully with Peter’s words. My prayer? Oh Lord may the reality of Peter’s affirming words be communicated to their hearts, regardless of their situation, through the power of the Holy Spirit!