Last Sunday marked the end of the “Outsiders” sermon series based on the first letter of Peter to the churches of North East Asia Minor. These new Christians, already suffering from social ostracism and economic hardship because of their belief in Christ, were also witnessing the beginning of government-sponsored persecution and martyrdom instigated at the orders of the sociopathic emperor Nero. Peter’s letter encouraging these believers to stand firm in their faith in spite of their present trials and suffering has continued to resonate with the church throughout history. Can we apply Peter’s letter to our lives today? After all we are not under the same oppression as the early church and our situation in life in America is not the same as for example an underground church in Syria or China.
Peter begins his letter by addressing his readers as “resident aliens”, strangers in the world, to remind them and us that our new life in Christ marks us as being temporary residents in this fallen world. If we are “resident aliens” how shall we then live? When my grandparents landed at Ellis Island at the turn of the 20th century, they stood out from society at large. Their dress was different; they spoke in a thick dialect; their cultural norms were different. In other words, they were easily recognized as outsiders. What marks us out as Christians in our society today? Peter provides us with compelling guidance. We are called to lead holy lives in reverent awe of God. We are to be a people who have been given moral and spiritual boundaries based on the truth of God’s word. We are to love our brothers and sisters in Christ with a pure heart. It is also God’s will that we should do good works so that they may be seen by the world and be able to give an answer for our faith to those who ask. Peter reminds us that this faith which sustains in this world and helps us to live according to God’s will is the “living hope” we have in an eternal inheritance in God’s kingdom assured by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and sealed by the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Peter also encourages us that as a chosen people belonging to God we are to “declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light”. In other words, we are sent by God as resident aliens to proclaim His grace, mercy and love to this world. As we transition to our next sermon series that takes up the theme of “Sent”, let Peter’s words guide us and challenge us to live our lives as residents of God’s kingdom bringing the light of Christ to this dark world.