1 Peter 1:1-2 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

Reading scripture is always rewarding, though we fail to realize how engaging a practice it is. This post begins a series of reflections I’ll be making on 1 Peter. This series will read less like a commentary in that I won’t be defending interpretations, and more like a running spiritual conversation between myself, my God, the Church, and the world we are on mission to. This is part of one of my new revisions to Sets ‘N’ Service I mentioned here. For my study of 1 Peter I’ll be using Karen Jobes commentary in the BECNT series, and Scot McKnight’s commentary in the NIVApplication series, so if you see them quoted often its because they’re going to be my ink and page voices in this reflective journey.

‘Exiles’ – some commentators take this word metaphorically to be speaking about the Churches present earthly experience as an exile from her true home, heaven. However, if we understand the audience of this letter to be mainly Jews who were expelled from Rome during Ceaser’s persecutions this word ‘exile’ carries a more historically particular meaning. Peter begins his letter here describing these Christians, their geographic and social locations, as well as their spiritual parontage. Their place in society is one of differentiated engagement. What does this mean? Karen Jobes suggests that it means that they neither fully assimilate nor completely withdrawl from society. Peter’s choice of words reminds them that they are both elect and exile, remaining under the loving and sovereign hand of God and while experiencing what goes along with being violently extracted from their natural home and culture.

We’ll see throughout Peter’s letter what this ‘differentiated engagement’ will mean for these early Christians as they struggle with the full extent of it and what it means for us today who may not have it as bad as them. One thing is clear, social tension isn’t a mark of wierdness the Church should wear with shame. Its a mark brought on by our union with Christ and oneanother. Whenever the Church is fully assimilating into society by either refusing or forgeting to take up her true identity she is not doing well, regardless of the adjective that comes before her designation, likewise whenever the Church completely withdrawls from society she is giving up the ground that her Lord declares, “It is mine.” Redemption is messy, but purposeful; and being salt and light to our neighbors is costly, but priceless. This form of differentiated engagement with society is one thing we can learn from Peter here, another is the notion that the Church on mission for the Lord isn’t always a ‘going Chuch’, sometimes our missional context isn’t something we search out, its present and impressed upon us. What might this mean for the Church in post-Christendom, and post-Colonialism?