Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. (1 Peter 2:11)
The longing for home is hidden within the heart of every human being. All of us, on some deep and foundational level, want a place where we are welcome. Many of us want to return at the end of the day to a family and a fireside. We want to lie down in safety, and wake up the next morning with everything just at it should be.
No wonder, then, that one of the most powerful temptations we face is to look for home here. Many of us, especially in times of comfort, settle into this earthly life as if we might just live here forever. We arrange the furniture and drive nails into the wall as those who own instead of rent.
But as long as we walk in this fallen body in this broken world, living by faith rather than by sight, we are not yet home.
Not Yet Home
The apostle Peter makes us feel our absence from home with two words that sound strange to modern Western ears: “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11). Sojourners and exiles, in the ancient world (and in some parts of the world today), were those away from home, whether voluntarily or not. Every day, they found themselves surrounded by customs, languages, and values different from their own. And no matter how long they stayed in a foreign land, their hearts burned for home.
Christians, Peter tells us, are in just such a position: we are sojourners and exiles on the earth. In Christ, we have been born again to a new citizenship (1 Peter 1:3, 23); by the Spirit, we are being trained in the customs of our heavenly country (1 Peter 1:17–19). Together with Christians from every people group on earth, we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [God’s] own possession” (1 Peter 2:9).
As we grow up into our heavenly citizenship, we will sound more and more strange to those around us — our Christlike accent will become more pronounced. We will surprise others by what we say (and don’t say), what we do (and don’t do), and where we place our hope (and where we don’t). Even if we live and die in the same city our whole life, we will look like we are still waiting for home.
Not Yet Safe
Not only are we not yet home — we are not yet safe. Peter writes, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11). We live not just in foreign territory, but in enemy territory. Every day, we wake up to enemies ready to do anything to keep us from getting home.
These enemies are not first other people, but our own sins. Our discontentment, love of praise, fear of man, lust, covetousness, and bitterness — these, far more than any person or circumstance, endanger our journey. They know we are heading to a place where they are not welcome — a “new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13) — and so they try to make exile feel like home.
Peter had already seen these “passions of the flesh” kill one of his closest friends. Judas Iscariot, whom Peter had lived with, ministered with, prayed with, laughed with, and learned with, bought a home of his own for thirty pieces of silver, only to hang himself in despair (Matthew 27:3–5). And he was not the last man to die in exile.
We are not yet home, and we are not yet safe. Alongside these two sobering reminders, Peter adds a third: we are never forsaken. The God who has laid up for us “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” does not let his poor pilgrim people brave the journey on their own. Every one of God’s people is “by God’s power . . . being guarded through faith” (1 Peter 1:4–5). By his word and his Spirit, he leads us step by step until the thorns of this world give way to the green grass of a new creation.
Having been bought with the blood of Jesus, we are precious in God’s sight; we are his “own people,” upon whom he loves to lavish mercy (1 Peter 2:10). He himself will strengthen us to abstain from the passions of the flesh. He himself will guide us along the path when dangers flank us on the right and on the left.
He himself will fulfill the promise Peter leaves us with at the end of his letter: “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10). In other words, he will bring us home.