1 Peter 2:11-12
Sojourners and Exiles
Peter has employed some wonderful descriptions, if not titles, to indicate who we are: a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and God’s own possession. These titles refer to what He has made us in relation to Himself. The Apostle now uses two more words that tell us who we are in relation to the world—and they’re not normally considered complimentary. These two words are “sojourner” and “exile.” “Sojourner” denotes someone who is not a permanent resident of the place he or she currently inhabits. Such a condition usually assumes some disadvantages compared to the permanent residents of the land. A synonym would be “alien.” “Exile” carries an even more negative connotation. A person is exiled from a nation if he has done something wrong or committed some heinous crime. With exile comes a stigma that one is no longer wanted by his own people.
And these are the two words Peter now chooses to describe believers in Christ Jesus in relation to the world. They are necessary descriptions derived from the matter that Christians have been set apart unto God; hence, they are de facto sojourners and exiles in relation to the world. The good Bishop James tells us, “Friendship with the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4). Thus, “sojourner” and “exile” are very beautiful terms which Christians may embrace wholeheartedly, for they refer back to the wonderful titles already mentioned—chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation, and God’s own possession. There is no other way a Christian may define himself in relation with the world but as one passing through, who has here no permanent home—and doesn’t want one.
The work for us is to live our lives with such a mentality willingly; that is, to embrace our status as exiles and sojourners. Should we care so much for possessions in this world? Are we people who care so much about worldly status when our status has already been declared by God? Should we fear death and dying when such is for us only a return to our true home? And as we are preparing to go home one day, should we not concern ourselves with heavenly matters such as putting to death those sinful desires that drag us down and make war with our souls and the task of purifying them? Should we not conduct ourselves in such a way that even if we are slandered in this world we shall be vindicated in the next such that even pagans will have to admit their wrong and exclaim that in truth God is right? There is a lot of talk about “identity” nowadays. The Christian’s identity in this world is exile, sojourner, one-passing-through. Embrace it and look to heaven.