I’m going to be brutally honest here…
The sinful side of me has a hard time processing all this Islamic terror and the evil it represents in the world. Part of me wants to respond in a way that is very un-Christlike.
There. I said it. But I don’t feel better.
So, what to do? This morning, I did the only thing I knew would help. I opened my bible and read and pondered and poured over scriptures.
I turned to 1 Peter where Peter is writing (probably from Rome in about 62-64 A.D.) to bolster and encourage Jewish Christians who had been driven out of Jerusalem and then scattered everywhere throughout the area. Many of these early Christians were in Greece and Rome and all around Asia Minor.
These Christians, although driven out of their land of birth, were driven into areas where they were definitely considered “foreigners.” In fact, Peter begins his letter to them:
“To God’s elect, strangers in the world…”
1 Peter 1:1
And although the entire letter serves to encourage and bolster their knowledge of the truth, I focused on 1 Peter 2:11 & 12:
“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”
Aliens and strangers. This makes it so clear as I contemplate the things of this temporal world that we as Christians live in for a few short years.
Being a Christian should shape the way you live and respond to EVERYONE. Even terrorists. The values of the Gospel of Christ should be our values and as such, when we live them out, we are, indeed, foreigners.
So I started in on some household chores and cued up a podcast from Tim Keller. It was from just a few days ago—November 5, 2015 and was entitled, “The Gospel, the Church, and the World.” It could not have been more appropriate for my scripture study or frame of mind. What was Tim speaking on? 1 Peter Chapter 2!
And since Dr. Keller has broken down Peter’s message regarding how Christians should respond in the midst of suffering so wonderfully, the following are part of the communication of his podcast to dissect these verses:
THE EARLY CHRISTIANS: What made them different from the Greeks and Romans and all other pagans they lived among?
- They didn’t attend or take part in the bloodthirsty entertainment of the day (i.e. gladiator matches, public means of torture).
- They did not serve in the military in order to support Caesar’s wars of conquest.
- They were against abortion and infanticide, which was common in the pagan cultures of the Greeks and Romans in which they lived.
- They empowered women. They used women and encouraged participation of women in roles of leadership and that was very different from the society in which they lived.
- They were against sex outside of marriage.
- They were against same-sex practices.
- They were absolutely radical in their support to the poor—they gave to the poor in ways that far exceeded the Greeks and Romans of their day.
- They mixed races and classes together in their meetings in ways that were considered scandalous.
- And lastly, they believed Christ was the only way to salvation.
No one had ever seen a group of people that held to all those practices. They were aliens. They were not like anyone around them.
So let’s look at a group of modern day people who are following those same sets of biblical values:
–Rejecting bloodthirsty sports and militarism, empowering women, reveling in the combination of races and classes and radically serving the poor.
What kind of group is that?
It sounds very liberal.
–Forbidding abortion and killing of children, forbidding sex outside of marriage, forbidding same-sex practices, and insisting that Jesus is the only way to salvation.
What does that sound like?
It sounds like a conservative group.
And this is who we are—ALL those things as Christ-followers. We are still aliens and foreigners in this world that often takes issue, on one point or another, with biblical truths that we ascribe to. We don’t fit into any traditional, hierarchical group.
We don’t fit into strictly liberal. We don’t fit in strictly conservative.
But in verse 12, Peter makes it clear that we are to be resident aliens. We are not called to attack or to assimilate.
What we are called to be is different in a non-defensive way. To live together and contribute. To serve. To love. And every group will vilify us because one point or another in our beliefs will offend them. They take offense at what does not suit their own and the world’s concoction of what is fair and just.
Our command: hold fast to the truth. (And now this is Jan speaking here…not Dr. Keller, although I feel he would agree!) Just as Christ demonstrated, our actions should remain above reproach, even amid hostility. Especially amid hostility! In this, either someday soon or at a future time, God judges and destroys all sin and the kingdom of heaven will rule every corner of this earth. Not the might or power of man on earth.
That job is not ours. And as hard as we may try to eradicate evil from the face of the earth…we never, ever will.