And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile...1 Peter 1:17
I am looking forward to our new Easter series based on readings from 1st Peter, which also follows our lectionary. We are indeed an "exiled" people. While we are in the world, we are not off the world (John 17:14). This is true biblically and is also shown in the history of the Church.
In the 4th century, Christianity became the official religion in the Roman empire during a period where urban life was flourishing. Christians found themselves in an environment where they found it hard to follow Christ faithfully. Under Graeco-Roman values, urban life determined one's identity. Indeed, one of the worst possible punishments to be ostracized or to be cut off from one's city. Yet in the fourth century thousands of Christians gladly and willingly embraced the simple life of the desert, the forest, or the mountain in a conscious rejection of city life.
These monastic Christians did not just recluse themselves. They were also active in evangelizing and converting the scattered pagan or barbarian populations outside of the cities.
Some of these have been reversed since the Reformation as Christians serves as "salt and light" to transform communities. In an endeavor to Christianize the nation, the reformed English Church sought to use monastic practices for the populace. And in so doing, cities and societies were impacted.
If we look deeper, we can see some Christian values underlying the laws of our land which helps to stem negative influences. But the values of the world are always overwhelming in their demands, squaring with some of the basal desires in human hearts. Living in a pluralistic world, we cannot expect society to imbue Christian values completely.
The fact is that we will never be able to feel completely at home in a world where Christ is not Lord. If we do, it is good to pause and ask if there are compromises which we are making. We are ask to pray “Maranatha” - even so, come Lord Jesus. This is not just about a desire to see our Lord return. It is a prayer for His Kingdom to rule. This is also very much at the heart of the Lord’s Prayer.
Are we really praying this prayer? Does it express our desire? Or are we so comfortable with the way our world is that we no longer feel “exilic” in any sense? Within our own modern context, we will need to reflect on the teachings of Peter to his "exiled" believers.
If Peter is to write a letter to us in Singapore today, what will he say to us?