DAILY DEVOTION - APRIL 30
Listen to excerpts from today's daily devotion on this video.
This Daily Devotion is from A Living Hope, by Sarah Viggiano Wright, published by Bible Study Media, and made available to us through Presbyterian Women.
“To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia...”
1 Peter 1:1b
If you spend any time around young unmarried people, you might be familiar with the acronym “DTR.” It stands for “Define the Relationship” and it’s “the talk” two people have when they’re trying to figure out what their relationship is, determining how significant they are to each other.
These conversations are common because we don’t always know our standing with others; we need to vocalize and confirm it. But they can be scary because no one wants to be less significant to someone than they are to us. Our significance affects our confidence and even our sense of identity.
The story of our significance—of our human dignity—starts in the Garden of Eden in which the triune God creates mankind in his image (Gen. 1:26). The first man and the first woman mirrored God’s goodness (his justice, mercy, love, grace, and service are included in this term). They were fully convinced God loved them and that they belonged to him.
But all that security came crashing down with the Fall. Satan, in the form of a serpent, uttered lies to Adam and Eve. His words reverberated in their hearts, shaking their sense of significance. They wondered, What if God is withholding something good from us? They were deceived, and so they ate. In that moment, all peace and wholeness shattered.
Upon Adam and Eve’s rebellion, their eyes were opened. They experienced intense pain, shame, fear, vulnerability, sorrow, and suffering they’d never known or even imagined before. They questioned their significance on every level—to God, to each other, and to their call. From that moment on, they were plagued with insecurity. At the root of their insecurity was a question yearning for a satisfactory answer: Do I matter?
Ever since the Fall, that question still yearns for an answer. In fact, questioning our security and significance often leads to more and more questioning—questioning God’s goodness, our purpose, or if anything really matters. Even those who have come to know Jesus and his great love are still subject, as residents of this fallen world, to times of questioning God’s goodness and care for us.
At the time of Peter’s first letter, the Christians to whom he’s writing were questioning too. The nation of Israel had been driven out of their homeland and had been dispersed, displaced, and scattered throughout Asia Minor—to the north, south, east and west. They were strangers and sojourners, trying to live and thrive. But their lives were plagued with hardship and unrest.
Nero was the Roman emperor at the time and he was publicly targeting and persecuting Christians—including these converted Jews as Gentile converts to Christianity. These new Christians were being strained on many fronts: socially, spiritually, politically, physically, and financially. Nero’s citizens were ordered not to do business with Christians. They were ostracized by their friends. Their homes and their livelihoods were in jeopardy. Some were in danger of losing their very lives.
All these threats left these scattered “elect exiles” feeling isolated and alone for trying to live for Jesus; they were floundering in the world. In their anguish, I imagine they cried out, God, do you even see us? Do you recognize what we’re going through? Do you realize we’re overwhelmed and alone here? How do we endure? Is there any hope for us?
If we’re honest, Satan has convinced all of us of the same lie he told Adam and Eve: God is withholding something good from you. You must not really be loved by him. You must not really matter. Satan would have us believe that we are essentially insignificant and unseen, that our suffering means God doesn’t love us and has abandoned us.
But Peter writes to these discouraged Christians and assures them that these lies are the furthest things from the truth. He affirms God’s love with his strategic use of the name “elect exiles.” Peter calls them elect exiles as a means of encouragement; but it’s not a greeting we would expect. So, why would Peter greet them this way?
Peter was reminding these scattered saints of God’s love for them by using the word “elect,” meaning “favored” or “chosen ones,” indicating their special and beloved relationship to God. The language of election would be a comfort to both the Jews and Gentiles who were hearing it. For the Jewish readers, the word “elect” would have recalled the promises of God to their ancestors. Peter uses the Old Testament language of Deuteronomy 7:6 and 10:15 that described the Jews: “But you are a chosen race... a people for his own possession” (1 Peter 2:9). To the Gentiles, being given the status of elect (chosen), on equal footing with the Jews, was powerful.
Peter’s words remind you and me today that God has chosen all Christians. God loves us. We are his treasure. Peter is reminding us of who we are and whose we are.
Peter also uses the word “exile” to convey to these scattered saints that God understands their plight. He knows they have been displaced. The word is also a reminder that, because they belong to God, they will never fully belong in this world. Some readers may think it harsh of Peter, like rubbing salt in an open wound, to use this term. But I believe “exile” would have provided Peter’s hearers comfort as an honest and raw acknowledgment of their present circumstances. Peter knows what they are going through is hard, sorrowful, and tiring, and he calls it like it is—you’re in exile; you’re scattered outcasts, dejected refugees. Peter is forthrightly “naming” it.
Naming is an intentional, overt use of appropriate words to accurately express an experience. In an everyday setting, it’s that moment when the person you’re talking with says something that resonates so deeply and truly that you exclaim, “Yes! That’s it! That’s the word I’ve been searching for. That’s exactly how I feel!”
To a displaced, persecuted people, the word “exile” likely named their pain. “Yes, we are exiles! Peter gets it! That’s exactly how we feel! We feel like outcasts! We wonder if we’re even seen!”
In taking assessment of our own circumstances, exile is a word that we ought to resonate with us, too. Our parents, Adam and Eve, were expelled from Eden and their legacy disrupted our senses of home and belonging. On earth, we constantly want to fit in, but those of us who stand out in Christ can never fully make this world our home. We sojourn here while belonging to the kingdom of God. We will never fully belong here nor fully assimilate. But, we belong to Christ! That’s far more exciting and rewarding than “fitting in” with this world. His choosing us gives us a living hope and a glorious future to anticipate even as we live as “elect exiles” on the earth.