We have begun a study of 1 and 2 Peter. I’ve entitled this series “Resident Immigrants Today.” Because I truly believe that’s what we are. Or what we should be.
Just as the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) gives us from Jesus a look at the “Christian Counter-Culture,” these letters of our Lord’s apostle and friend Simon Peter do the same. The idea behind resident immigrants is that we are not completely at home in this world, but we are going to be here a while.
And that can cause some issues. It would be different if we felt totally at home in the world, completely taking on its values and lifestyle. Or if Jesus were to return and take us to our heavenly home. Either way, there would be no issues, no conflicts, no feeling out of place.
However, we remain as residents here in this world. At least for the moment. So the question becomes, will we be not only residents but immigrants? Or will we take on the culture of the world and cast aside the Word of God and our Christian convictions in order to better fit in as resident citizens rather than resident immigrants?
One of the aspects of this life in which we do not fit in so well is our view of suffering, trials and persecution. The Bible’s view of suffering is, well, a bit odd.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything…Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (James 1:2-4, 12)
“Pure joy?” Seriously? How is that possible, much less healthy? If this world were all there was to life, it would be impossible, and would certainly be unhealthy. And that’s where 1 Peter comes in.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3-9)
It is our eternal salvation, the assurance that we will live forever with our Lord in our heavenly home, that gets us through the tough times in this world. It’s what makes it worthwhile to endure the difficulties we face and the troubles and suffering that others cause us when we don’t quite fit in. And in those times it’s a good thing we don’t.
You see we fit in either here or in heaven. But not both. Peter tells us to choose our permanent residence. Which will it be for you?