“Seeking God First in our Community - By Matt Finley”Categories: Seeking God First
During the downward spiral of Israel in the Old Testament book of Judges, there is an ever-apparent theme that propels the main dialogue: Yahweh commands his people to destroy every nation in the Promise Land, and much to their demise, they failed to obey. This led to an assimilated people who viewed Yahweh as a “war god”, amidst a melting pot of gods from the surrounding nations. In Yahweh’s New Covenant, we see the paradigm shift from destroying nations that are not Israelite, to living peaceably within our own communities. Early Christians were told to live in the world but not let the world affect their primary goal of seeking the kingdom of God.
How do we accomplish this without compromising our faith? How can we be active in our community without compromising the deep tension that must be maintained between the church and the world surrounding it? Seeking the kingdom of God within our community can be difficult, but we are commanded to do it. Over the next few weeks, articles will reflect ways in which we can be effective as kingdom citizens in our communities.
Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. – 1 Peter 2:11-12
I love this verse because the apostle Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, perfectly provides us the balance in our lives of connecting to the community without conforming.
We are aliens. Peter is speaking to Greeks—those who have a deep tie to the community in which they live. He is telling them that when you become a Christian, you become foreigners to your country. Why is Peter telling us to become a different species? It is because Christians become counter-cultural. In the context of this verse, Peter has identified Christians as “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession” (2:9). They are a holy or sanctified people. There is something drastically different from Christians in comparison to the world in which they live. Think about the religious culture in which early Christians lived in. The Greeks were pagans—polytheists, believing in multiple gods, while Christians believed in Jesus as the only way to salvation. The world had never seen such a radical change in religion. Since its conception, Christianity calls for its followers to become a category busting people who do not fit in any culture. We are separate. We are holy. We are aliens.
But we are resident aliens. Peter describes a balanced life that we crave. This letter was written to exiles that were under immense persecution. Peter is writing this letter to encourage them to continue as aliens even under accusations of doing wrong. He wants them to continue to live in the culture, but be a foreigner – a resident alien. He urges them to live in a way so that those in their community will one day see the good they are doing, all for the glory of God. This echoes the same language that Peter was given from our Lord when He said that we are the light of the world, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14). We must be aliens but we must reside within in our communities and have a profound impact on those who are part of it. We are going to be accused of wrong doing as an alien in our community, but we must be gracious, serve, and be different in a manner that will bolster the glory of God. What a phenomenal task put before us! So, how is this accomplished?
Align yourself with the Chief Cornerstone. According to Peter (1 Peter 2:4-8), Jesus was the chief cornerstone, however, he was ultimately rejected by men, seen as a foreigner, an alien, an exile. The cornerstone of a building provides the beginning surface in which the whole construction site is built upon. If it is solid, the building is solid, but if the cornerstone is misaligned, the building is shaky at best. If we join, as a living stone, with Christ being our cornerstone, he provides us with the strength to reside in our community as a resident alien, because he did it perfectly. John states in his gospel that Jesus became man and made his dwelling among us (John 1:14). Even under painful rejection and alienation, He literally “tabernacled” with mankind to show us how to live in our community. Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:20).
Over the next two weeks, we will examine our Lord and how he interacted with His community. How was he able to be an alien but also perfectly “tabernacle” and provide such a profound influence in His community? I write these articles with much trepidation, because this is personally challenging for me to implement in my life. But then, what more can we do than align ourselves with King Jesus?