Reading for Monday, Feb. 27: 1 Peter 4
In the early part of the letter, Peter has been reminding the people of God of their identity. “Exiles”, “strangers”, “sojourners”, “foreigners” and “aliens” are used interchangeably to locate God’s people as a displaced group. Peter seems to be envisioning a new wilderness experience for the people of God, a nomadic experience of longing for our true home. Whether the context is perseverance through suffering, submission to authority, or the call to emulate God’s holy character, Christians are called to live as exiles in the flesh.
Peter uses another word in ch4 to describe those who indulge their sinful desires: “pagans” (NIV, v3) or “ethnos” in Greek. If exiles are characterized by their submission to the Chief Shepherd, then the ethnos bow only to their own fleshly impulses. They do not understand why exiles refuse to engage in their vices: “debauchery, lusty, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry,” (v3). But the day will soon arrive when exiles and ethnos alike “will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead,” (v5). Live as exiles, Peter says, not as ethnos.
The exile’s life is distinguished by self-control, clarity of mind, hospitality and, above all, abounding love, which covers a multitude of sins (v8). “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms,” (v10). God uniquely gifts His exiles and asks for faithful stewardship in the employment of these gifts that His grace might be properly administrated. What is your gift? And how are you using it?
Exiles also possess a reoriented mind, finding joy even in the midst of suffering. This theme was teased out in 1.6-7 and Peter returns to it here at the end of ch4. Peter’s words must have been a tremendous encouragement to the first century exiles who faced opposition at every turn from the Jewish religious institution, the Roman empire, as well as their neighbors and family members. But his teaching would have reminded them of the words of Jesus: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you,” (Matt. 5.10-12).
Brothers and sisters, may you live today as exiles in a foreign land. May you employ your gift to bring glory to our Father God, wherever you might be and whatever you might do. And may we face our trials and challenges with the knowledge that God’s spirit of power and glory rests fully upon us (1 Pet. 4.14).