How do citizens of a heavenly nation live faithfully as temporary citizens on earth? How can you survive the election without losing your faith, your friends, your witness, . . . or your mind? Those are the questions we’re answering this week by examining six truths about exile citizenship from 1 Peter 2:11-17.
Here’s the fourth truth: know your mission. What is your mission this election season? Is it to bury your head in the sand until it’s all over? Or to help your guy get elected? Or to make sure the other guy doesn’t get elected? These approaches aren’t necessarily wrong in and of themselves, but none of them is broad enough to be considered our mission. What is our mission in this and every season of life?
I believe the Christian’s mission is clearly articulated in the marching orders Jesus gave His followers immediately before He ascended into heaven. Matthew 28:18-20 puts it this way: And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (19) Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The Christian’s mission is bigger than who serves in the oval office, on Capitol Hill or even on the Supreme Court. We are permanent citizens of a holy nation. Our mission is to make disciples. To shepherd sinners from lost to leader. To tell people the Good News of the Gospel, to baptize them when they believe it, and to train them to obey all the teachings of Jesus in His Word. That’s our mission. And that’s exactly what Peter tells the exiled Christians to remember as they live as temporary citizens of a hostile world. Look again at verse 12—Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
Here’s what Peter is saying: we need to live holy lives among unbelievers because they’re watching us. And as we live differently some will see our good works and begin glorifying God. In other words, God will use our faithfulness to attract sinners to Himself. God wants to use you, Christian, to draw sinners from darkness into His marvelous light!
This is exactly what Jesus is saying in Matthew 5:14-16— “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. (15) Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. (16) In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
If you’ve been around for a while, you’ve probably heard me reject the popular quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary, use words.” That’s like saying, “give me your phone number. If necessary, use digits.” Or “feed the hungry. If necessary, use food.” You can’t proclaim the Good News of Jesus without using words! But let’s be careful. In affirming the necessity of words, let us not resort to a snobbery that says our actions don’t matter.
Christian, your life in and of itself cannot communicate the Gospel. Nobody is going to look at your life alone and conclude, “Wow, what a kind person! I need to repent of my sins and trust in Jesus Christ who died on a cross in my place and rose from the dead!” Of course not! They need to hear you tell them the Good News. But your actions still matter.
Think of your life like a picture frame. In 2017 the world’s most expensive painting Salvatore Mundi by Leonard da Vinci was sold for a record-breaking price of $450 million. If that were your painting, how would you frame it? Would you get one of those cheap Dollar Tree frames? A neon frame? Zebra print? Why not? Because a frame like that would detract from the beauty and value of the painting! In fact, the Salvatore Mundi painting was framed with a 16th century Italian frame that is by itself worth $50,000. Your life should be like that. If the Gospel is a rare and priceless portrait, your life should frame that Gospel so that people see your life and want to meet your Lord.
We have forgotten our mission if our lives and our lips begin to reflect either of the presidential candidates who debated on Tuesday night. We have forgotten our mission if we view political rivals as enemies to be debated and defeated rather than image-bearers of God to be won for Christ.
How do citizens of a heavenly nation live faithfully as temporary citizens on earth? By knowing your mission.