1 Peter 2:11-12 (Berean Study Bible)
11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12 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."
It can be easy to allow global headlines, personal disappointments, and daily struggles to cloud our visions of the future. However, it is so important to remember ourselves as permanent beings in a very temporary world. The cares of this world are here for a moment and then gone, as we will be! In fact, the Bible spends a good deal of time reminding us that we are not residents of the Earth, but instead journeying strangers wandering through a strange land.
Directly derived from Psalm 39:12, the Apostle Peter exhorts his readers in 1 Peter 2:11-12 to remain strong in their pilgrimages toward Heaven. The Psalmist cries out to God for aid as a foreigner or sojourner, or as a pilgrim migrating from earth to God’s kingdom. It is interesting to note that the Biblical use of ‘sojourner’ does not denote journeying, but instead a residence in a foreign country. In a modern sense, this phrase can be interpreted as ‘refugees’ in a strange land. This paints a vivid picture of the life we lead as Christians: not of the world, but in it.
Today’s Christians are no longer scattered about the earth as the Jews were in BIblical times. However, we share similarities in the fact that we are both still very far from home. Unprotected in a hostile, alien world, Christian strangers must beware of many obstacles as we journey onward. People of the flesh anxiously await the right moment to criticize, ridicule, and destroy any ‘strangers’ who pass them by. Principalities, powers, and rulers of darkness lay in wait to besiege those who are not careful. False prophets lay around every bend of the road, and every glittering oasis. How can the Christian continue to be a stranger in a strange land, even with so many obstacles before them?
The Apostle’s gentle verses in 1 Peter 2:11-12 remind us of why -- and how -- we continue marching on our lonely journey. We are not people of the world, only in the world! As strangers, we are not to partake in the customs of the lands we pass through, even if they seem enticing, safe, or ‘normal.’ Instead, we are to abstain from all pagan practices, and live lives that are so pure as to be blameless in the lives of any accusers. After all, we are only passing through; no need to linger!
As John Bunyan so mightily remarks in his book The Pilgrim's Progress, “What God says is best, is best, though all the men in the world are against it.” Let us carry on in our pilgrimage towards Heaven as righteous strangers in a hostile, strange land!
Do you feel like a stranger in the world today? What about a stranger to God? The Bible tells us that we are to be foreigners and sojourners in the ways of the world. Think of the important and influential people in your life. How can you best encourage them -- and the rest of the Church -- to seek home in Heaven every day of their lives?
Psalm 39:12 (New English Standard Version)
12 Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear to my cry for help; do not be deaf to my weeping. For I am a foreigner dwelling with You, a sojourner like all my fathers.
Hebrews 11:13 (Berean Study Bible)
13 All these people died in faith, without having received the things they were promised. However, they saw them and welcomed them from afar. And they acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.