In many ways Peter’s world is radically different from October 2020. He was not living in a representative democracy like the United States of America. His audience didn’t have a contentious election looming on the horizon. They weren’t subjected to a 24-7 news cycle repeating it’s claims every four years that this election—for real this time—was the most important in their lifetime. They weren’t watching televised debates or reading the avalanche of live commentary on social media.
Peter’s audience was a handful of Christian churches scattered across Asia Minor in the early 60’s A.D. They lived in the Roman Empire during the reign of a madman emperor named Nero. Beginning in A.D. 64 (probably a year or two after this very letter was written), Nero launch a vicious persecution against Christians that would continue throughout the Roman empire for over 100 years. And yet, Peter’s words to Christians living under this kind of government are highly instructive to believers in America today. If what Peter tells us was necessary for Christians living in Rome during the 1st century, how much more are they necessary for Christians living in America during the 21st century?
Last week we saw that to live faithfully as exiles we need to know who we are. One of the amazing realities we considered was that Christians are a holy nation. But how do citizens of a heavenly nation live faithfully as temporary citizens on earth? That’s the big question I hope to answer this week from 1 Peter 2:11-17. Or to put it another way, I hope to show you how to survive the election without losing your faith, your friends, your witness, . . . or your mind. The answer is found in knowing six truths about exile citizenship. We’ll cover one every day this week.
Here’s the first truth: know you’re loved. 1 Peter 2:11 begins with one dynamite word: “Beloved.” Let’s not move too quickly past this. Some translations word this as “dear friends,” but that cannot capture the depth of what Peter means here. He’s using a form of the Greek word agape that describes a deep, committed, sacrificial love.
This should naturally lead us to ask a few questions. First, who are the loved ones? Peter is writing to Christians, those who have repented and believed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who recognize their sinfulness and their need for a Savior. Those who are trusting in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus alone to have a right relationship with God.
Second, who’s doing the loving? The most important answer is that God loves us. If you’re a Christian, you are beloved by God Himself. How do we know He loves us? Because He has called us from darkness to His marvelous light!
Christian: if you don’t understand anything else from these articles this week, please understand this. The most important truth for you to remember this election season is that God loves you. You may love President Trump, but I’m convinced he doesn’t love you. You may love Joe Biden, but I’m convinced he doesn’t love you either. They may love your vote, but they don’t love you. They may have a general love for humanity or for American citizens, but they don’t love you. And they will go on not loving you no matter what happens on November 3. But if you’re a Christian, no matter how the dust settles on the 2020 election you are loved.
Several years before his death, the renown Swiss Reformed theologian Karl Barth was lecturing at the University of Chicago. Barth had written dozens and dozens of books, including his seminal work Church Dogmatics, which at over nine thousand pages is one of the longest works of systematic theology ever written. During the Q&A time after his lecture, Barth was asked to summarize his theology in a single sentence. As the story goes, Barth responded by saying, “in the words of a song I learned at my mother’s knee: ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.’” Christian, if you can just begin to understand the depths and the glories of that simple truth, it can revolutionize how you think about this election.
But when Peter calls his readers “beloved,” he’s not just talking about how Jesus loves them. Peter loves them. He’s not their pastor, but he is a pastor and with a pastor’s heart he writes this letter to churches in Asia Minor.
PBC members: your pastors love you. We deeply and truly love you. Not as well as we should. We’re trying to grow. I wish you could hear the way your elders pray for you. I wish you could see how they serve you. How they pursue you. How they hurt for you. You truly are our beloved.
Whenever my mom wanted to get my attention as a teenager she would say, “this is your mother who loves you” and then tell me what I needed to hear. When she said that, she wasn’t telling me not to listen to anybody else, she was just reminding me that whatever she was about to say was coming from a place of love.
Alright, PBC. This is one of your pastors who loves you: Over the next 30 days you’re going to hear a lot of words from a lot of people. I don’t who you go to for news. But whether it’s Sean Hannity or Rachel Maddow, Tucker Carlson or Anderson Cooper, John Oliver or Trevor Noah, I am convinced of this: they don’t love you. That doesn’t mean you turn them off, but I am pleading with you to recognize that everything I’m about to say is coming from a place of love. How do citizens of a heavenly nation live faithfully as temporary citizens on earth? By knowing you’re loved.