Alien-Immigrants and Strangers
Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul (1 Peter 2:11).
Christians live as both alien-immigrants in the world and as strangers, visitors just passing through the world, picking up those things needed for eternity.
Peter’s letter has three sections. Section one is chapter 1:1-12. God the Father works eternally in the lives of those who are alien immigrants in the world. Section two is from chapter 1:13 through chapter 2:10. The Holy Spirit has set apart the Christian and they are strangers in the world looking forward to their home in eternity.
Finally, the third section is in 2:11-5:14, the work of God the Son is made known through both suffering (for righteousness’ sake) in the world and with obedience to the Divine will. Peter combines both words (parapedemos and paroikos) into one phrase (2:11) to show the essential dichotomy faced by Christians as they live in a world which causes their suffering while remaining obedient to Jesus Christ, their Lord and Savior, who also suffered for them.
Scripture recognizes the difference between the alien-immigrant and the stranger, between those who accept the host county as their own or those who are just passing through using the host country to meet their needs. During the exodus, in the Hebrew Scripture, God is clear on His position concerning the alien-immigrant and the stranger in the larger context of His people. As the nation of Israel was exiting Egypt, God commanded them to eat a Passover feast, and to celebrate this feast and their miraculous release from slavery by the powerful hand of God.
And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the statute of the Passover: no foreigner shall eat of it, but every slave that is bought for money may eat of it after you have circumcised him. No foreigner or hired worker may eat of it. It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones. All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.” (Exodus 12:43-51 ESV)
Foreigner means the son of an alien or someone who does not consider Israel their home, either by birth or by decision. No person who refuses to identify with God or His people may eat and celebrate the Passover. Non-native people can celebrate the Passover. A servant or slavewho is circumcised, and by circumcision has identified with Israel, may eat the Passover. This is an important distinction. God recognizes the difference between those who are separated out from the world and dedicated to Him, and those who are separated from Him and identify with the world. The Passover was an annual celebration of remembering those who are God’s being saved from death as the Destroying Angel kills all the first born of those people who are in rebellion against God. In this case it is the Egyptian, and any who were in the borders of Egypt during the last plague.
Peter calls the Christian alien-immigrants and strangers. “Beloved, I urge you as alien-immigrants and strangers to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1Peter 2:11). Those who identify with Christ are citizens of the kingdom of heaven, temporarily residing as citizen of an earthly kingdom. They are refugees, unable to return to their real home until the war is over and God calls them home. Their attitude is one of knowing they are different yet accepting the citizenship in a place without embracing all of the cultural norms of the citizen of that place. They are displaced for a time and placed by God where they are His witnesses. They are the parapedemos.
But, Christians are also the paroikos, the stranger who is temporarily in a place to gain what they can before returning home. God is preparing the Christian for eternity and uses the trials and persecutions of the world to form the Christian into a spiritual being fit for eternity with Him. Because Christians are not citizens of the world and do not identify with the cultural traits of the world, the world and those in the world hate them, are suspicious of them and disdain them.
Christians live their lives in dichotomy. On one hand they live and vote and act like citizens of an earthly kingdom while knowing they are not. Our home is in eternity with God but we must act like our temporary lives in the world have significance and purpose. On the other hand, we reject the morality and culturally acceptable practices of the world when they conflict with God’s will. We act like our temporary lives in this world and the things we have and collect have no eternal value because we look forward to an inheritance that is eternal. Is it any wonder Christians and Christianity is misunderstood, compromised and disparaged?