Beloved– Living in the world but not being worldly is hard. So Peter reminds us of our core identity: we are loved. He calls us “loved ones” (or “beloved”). Do you own this truth? The God of the universe likes and loves you — and He is in love with you, not a future version of you. How does this comfort you? As for me, it soothes my soul, anchoring me to an eternal reality beyond the troubles of this world.
I urge you – The original language here means to encourage, to comfort, or to call to one’s side. It is the same word used for what the Holy Spirit does: He comes alongside us as our most intimate ally, our greatest helper. Peter calls out to these dearly loved believers, scattered among the provinces of ancient Turkey (1 Peter 1:1), and encourages them with this battle cry.
as sojourners and exiles – In the original language, the first word refers to a stranger, an “alien.” The second word refers to a temporary visitor in a strange and foreign land. In ancient cities, this term was used to publicly honor a citizen who brought glory to their home city while in a foreign land. You and I are not really citizens of Maryland or the USA, but citizens of Heaven — and we ought to bring honor to our real home while we live in this “foreign land.” We represent the kingdom of Heaven, not any nation of this world.
to abstain from the passions of the flesh – Keep away from (or refrain from) fleshly desires. You have a new heart; you are a new creation in Christ. And as Peter just said, the new you as a new creation belongs to a foreign country: Heaven. The new you is a sojourner and exile here on this earth. But your flesh is still sinful and corrupt… so watch out!
which wage war against your soul. – The world around us makes it easy to succumb to our flesh. Temptations abound all around us. And temptations aren’t just passively out there… this is deadly serious war. Fleshly desires constantly assault us, like an endless stream of enemy soldiers bearing down on us and never letting up. Daniel faced this problem, the believers in 1 Peter faced this problem, and we too face the same exact threat. But we must be ruled by spiritual desires, not fleshly desires.
Peter then describes the consequence of a life that remains pure: we will live honorable lives in the eyes of the world around us (v. 12) and we will submit to the government (v. 13). We will “Honor everyone, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the emperor” (v. 17). Some decades later, the governor of one of these very provinces wrote a letter to Emperor Trajan in Rome. He asked the emperor for his advice about what to do with these Christians that were multiplying all over the place. And in this letter he said something very remarkable: even after torturing some of them, he found nothing wrong with them except “superstition.” In other words, their only “crime” was their belief in Jesus. Decades later, these Christians were still living by Peter’s instruction! Can we do the same? Can we remain in the power of Christ no matter what comes our way?
QUESTIONS TO ASK EACH OTHER:
- How do you think our identity as “loved ones” and as “sojourners and exiles” connects with the importance of “abstaining from the passions of the flesh?”
- How have you been able to think, feel, and act like a “sojourner and exile” in the past week?
- Sometimes I think many of us forget that all of life is a war, and that our fleshly desires constantly assault us like a never-ending stream of soldiers “going over the top.” How do you think we are deceived into this complacency? And how do you think memorizing and meditating on this fighter verse can, by God’s grace, jar us out of that mentality?
- What are some of the “passions of the flesh” waging war against your soul right now? How can you and I pray for each other?
QUESTIONS FOR FAMILIES:
- One good example of an “exile” story is Superman. He is from Krypton but has made his home on earth. Along the way he struggles with his dual citizenship, but seeks to help earth and save it from destruction. How can you use this story or other similar stories to connect to Jesus’ story and your family’s story?
- Talk to your children about how the physical things we want, things that we think will make us happy, are often not only bad for our bodies, but also bad for our hearts- they make us mean people or greedy people.
- In a nutshell our verse this week is talking about avoiding the worship of idols (putting anything above God). Talk to your children about idols. Explain how when we love something more than God (even good and nice things), they can turn out to be bad for us or hurt us. Can you think of examples together as a family?