Today David McMillan explored the concept of our identity as followers of Jesus Christ. Reading from Peter’s first letter, David focused on two main themes.
1. Our existence in the world as aliens and strangers
At the beginning of his letter (1 Peter 1:1-3), Peter uses 3 terms to address the audience of early believers:
- Chosen (elect)
- Resident aliens (strangers)
- Diaspora (scattered)
Chosen: Before the beginning of time, God chose us, to save us from our sin and call us to be His followers. God wants us to act as witnesses to the Good News, that is Jesus Christ, his life, death and resurrection.
Resident Aliens: Peter also addresses the listeners as ‘resident aliens’ – believers living as missionaries in their respective communities. This is not the first time God’s people have been described in this way: the Old Testament records Abraham (Genesis 23:4), Moses (Exodus 2:22) and king David (Psalm 39:12) referring to themselves as aliens and strangers. Likewise, we may recognise ourselves as resident aliens in a world with many different faiths, cultures and beliefs. As strangers in this world, we are people set apart by the Holy Spirit, invited to an intimate and loving relationship with God.
Diaspora: this term is defined as the geographical dispersion or scattering of a community of people. The word is usually associated with the Jewish exile, when the Jews were scattered from their original homeland to many different parts of the world. Like these early believers, we too may find ourselves living as a diaspora; however, despite the scattering of Christians around the globe, we are not isolated or alone. Together we are one body in Christ, a world-wide, transnational community of God’s people.
2. How aliens and strangers relate to the others in the world
The second theme from today’s scripture explores how we, as God’s chosen people and scattered resident aliens, should relate to others in our community.
David focused on 6 elements of this instruction from Peter’s letter:
- Live as free people
- Live as God’s servants
- Respect everyone
- Love the family of believers
- Fear God
- Respect the emperor
As free people, we are not held captive to culture, politics, race or any earthly concept – they do not define us. We are defined as one thing – servants of God. We are called to live for God, who through Jesus Christ offers us freedom.
We are taught to show everyone respect, regardless of race, social status, sexuality or political view. This is in accordance with the second greatest commandment Jesus teaches us, which is to “love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).
With regard to our family of believers, we are taught to love each other. As God’s chosen people, we form one body of Christ, and in that body, love must prevail in our relationships with one another.
Over all of this, we must acknowledge God as our top priority. Not only are we to love God with all our heart, soul and mind, but we are also called to fear God – to give him our full loyalty, respect and devotion.
Finally, there is the emperor, whom Peter instructs us to simply respect like we would any other person. Despite the emperor historically being treated like a god, a person that people would fear the most, we are to treat them as anyone else, as it is written,
- How is it with you, in a community divided by culture, race and sectarianism?
- How, as resident aliens in this world, do we live and serve in a way which honours God?