Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according 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 (1 Peter 1:1-2, ESV).
In this post, we begin looking for help with life’s problems by mining God’s wisdom in the First Epistle of Peter. It is my prayer that you will be as edified by these posts, as I have been by teaching and preaching through this wonderful book. The great sixteenth-century reformer Martin Luther, whose life bore some comparison with the trials of Peter’s original readers, called 1 Peter one of the most precious portions of the New Testament Scriptures.
Loneliness is a problem that is all too common to life. Just this week, I spoke to someone who is struggling a great deal with living alone. Loneliness can lead to feelings of fear, depression, and anxiety. I would expect that we all have had experiences with loneliness in our lives. It’s therefore not surprising that help with loneliness appears at the very beginning of Peter’s letter.
Exile and Loneliness
Peter refers to those to whom he is writing as exiles. These Christians were likely predominantly Jews, who were living outside God’s promised land in the areas of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia (modern Turkey). In the case of these individuals, we are not sure whether their exile was voluntary or involuntary. What we do know is they were foreigners, living in foreign lands.
Think about the word “exiles.” What comes to your mind? To help that process, consider some of the ways other Bible versions translate the word in this verse: aliens, refugees, and strangers. Being an exile, alien, refugee, or stranger suggests that you don’t belong. When you don’t belong, you will likely experience loneliness.
Think about the times when you experienced loneliness. Did you feel like you just didn’t fit in where you were? Like a stranger in a strange place…or perhaps a refugee, longing to be where you had friends and family who cares for you? Maybe, you felt completely alone, like one exiled to a desolate place.
You’re Not Alone
While Peter calls his readers exiles, we shouldn’t miss the word he uses to describe those exiles. His readers are not just exiles, they are elect exiles. They are God’s chosen exiles. All of us who have believed the gospel and become followers of Jesus Christ are chosen exiles. While I won’t fully review the doctrine of election here, let me share what Peter is reminding his original readers and those of us, who like them, trust wholly in Jesus Christ. Peter is reminding us that God knew us before the beginning of time and it is as if He laid His hand on us and declared “this one is mine!“
Since we belong to God, we are never really alone. God is with us. He is working in us to make us holy (sanctification) by, among other things, teaching us to obey Jesus. This obedience is possible as Jesus died, taking our sin upon Him, so that we may live with Him forever. He has promised to be with us always. And we can talk to Him in prayer, knowing that He hears us. Because of Jesus, we are never lonely exiles. We are God’s exiles.
Turn to the God Who Chose You and Saved You
There is certainly more we could explore about being elect exiles. For example, it reminds us that this world is not our home. Our true home is with Jesus in His kingdom. Even when we don’t feel like it, we do belong. We belong to God’s family, for God has adopted us as His children.
Are you lonely? Meditate on these truths that Peter has introduced in the first two verses of this letter. Remind yourself that in the midst of being in exile, you have been claimed by God, who loves you so much He gave His only Son so that you might be part of His family. Further, He has built His church to provide you brothers and sisters to share His love for you. I hope you are a member of a church that does just that. If not, I pray you find such a church soon, for God ministers so much through His church.
I pray these truths help you deal with loneliness in your life and this becomes the first of many life problems for which you find answers from Peter’s first letter. Until next time when we continue our look at 1 Peter, remember to be quick to hear, slow to speak.