The comfort of being elect exiles in this world

The comfort of being elect exiles in this world

We all want to belong somewhere. There is something comforting about being with the people we love in a place where we know we are welcome. There is something special about home.

The apostle Peter wrote his first letter to Christians scattered through the world. Peter described his readers as “elect exiles”. To be elect means that they were chosen by God, God’s special people whom He had saved through Jesus. And to be exiles meant that they were people away from home, away from where they belonged.

The word “exile” in English doesn’t quite capture the sense of the Greek word Peter used here. When we think of exile, we think of people who are forcibly away from their homes, like political leaders exiled after a revolution or people forced to flee due to war in their homeland. The Greek word here doesn’t need to have such forcible overtones; it simply means those who are living in a place that is not their home. Many of Peter’s readers would be living in the same city they were born in; the title of ‘exile’ would still apply to them. Peter was not speaking of a separation from a physical country. He meant that all Christians are citizens of heaven, people who belong to God. Wherever Christians live in this world, they are outsiders, exiles, people who don’t quite belong.

It is like having a passport issued to you from heaven. The passport has been obtained for you by Jesus and his finished work in his death and resurrection. It was not because you paid the right money or filled out the right form. All Christians belong to God in a permanent way. Yet we live in all kinds of different places around the world as temporary visa holders. We are not here forever.

This is a very useful concept and explains a lot about how Christians feel about this world. It explains why we often feel odd, like we don’t quite fit into the wider culture. So many of the things those around us value are not so important to us, and things we value are not so important to them. However comfortable we are with the language and world we live in, we are not the same as those who don’t know Jesus. Like migrants in a new country, we don’t quite understand the language and we don’t feel quite as comfortable as the locals do.

The fact that we are elect exiles also explains why church is so encouraging for Christians. Even when we have been out in the workplace or in our non-Christian families all week, coming together with our brothers and sisters in Christ is a wonderful thing. In the church, all believers are welcome. Here are people we share so much with and where all are welcome. There is something refreshing about being with our people, God’s people, the elect.

Being an exile means that we are never quite at home in this world; we should be longing for our true home. One Day, our Lord will come to take us home. It might be before we die or afterwards. But whenever it comes, it is certain; there is a passport with our name on it if we trust in Jesus. God knows who are His people. Come, Lord Jesus.