Unity and Belonging for Exiles and Aliens
Molly Bagley of Pensacola, FL, USA
Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge. For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. As servants of God, live as free people, ye do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor. -1 Peter 2:11-17
Have you ever felt as if you did not know where you fit in or belonged? I’m sure most people have at one time or another. The recipients of Peter’s letter were experiencing this on a much bigger scale. They were converts to the early Christian community and were expected to leave behind friends and family who did not convert. In addition, the meetings of the Christian house-churches were closed to outsiders, the Lord’s Supper was interpreted by others as cannibalism, and the Christian community refused to participate in the state-mandated cult religions that they now viewed as sinful.
The rift that emerged between the Christian and non-Christian groups grew wider and Christians were seen as disrupters of the peace and social outcasts. They were exiles and aliens in their own ethnic communities, which put their sense of unity and belonging at risk. The author of 1 Peter was writing to help them deal with this new situation, as well as forge a stronger community in the fellowship of believers. This letter states that the communities are to “conduct [themselves] honorably…so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God…Honor everyone. Love the family of believers” (2:12, 17).
There will always be situations in which we feel like outsiders because of something as small as our clothing or as big as our religious beliefs. We can look to 1 Peter for a reminder that all we do should glorify God, and that struggles and suffering have come to everyone at some point. As Community of Christ we join together in Christ’s mission to extend compassionate ministries and peacemaking initiatives through life’s trials. We share each other’s burdens in community as we work to continually proclaim Jesus Christ in our lives.
“…all things in God and God in all things” (Mechthild of Magdeburg).
Reflecting on Presence
Breathe deeply and become present to the Presence with you here and now. Take a few moments in the silence to reflect prayerfully on the following questions:
Where have you been aware of God’s presence in your life?
What is God’s invitation to you in this story?
How do you desire to be more open to God’s presence and invitation tomorrow?
Today’s Prayer for Peace
Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.