By Benjamin Potter
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
When I read 1 Peter, I’m confronted with the message almost immediately–he’s writing to people who are suffering no small amount of persecution and poverty. And if that’s not heavy enough, remember, Peter will be killed a year after this letter is penned, crucified like Jesus, and if that’s still not heavy enough, Peter apparently had to watch his wife die in the same way.
I don’t know why this is the case, but when I read this passage I think of my house. I think it has something to do with sojourners and exiles. Both are homeless, exiles are sent away and unable to return home, sojourners are always travelling with no home to which they might return.
Reading this verse and verses like it, I think what would make me a sojourner or an exile? And then for whatever reason my mind takes me back to an early memory of a burning house. I was young and my brothers and my dad went out one night to inspect what seemed to be a huge fire in the woods. We approached the red glow, and I remember a structure burning, smelling flaming wood and rubber and chemicals. I remember fearing that someone was there, waiting in the shadows, or even worse, was stuck inside. Police came, and nothing came of it. I remember in the winter, my brothers and I went back, again the fear that someone lurked nearby filled my mind. It was a pile of burnt beams, metal, and brick charred and damp from the rain and snow. The snow covered everything, but you could see clearer the flame stained construction. And I wondered that if someone were to be living here, “Who would live like this? And what would it be like to live in this place?”
I might live there if there was nowhere else for me to go, if I had no other choice, or maybe if somehow I felt attached to the place. But then who would be attached to something like this? Who wouldn’t run from this? Who wouldn’t prefer almost anything else to this ashheap?
I read the verse again, and I hear Peter’s voice this time, calling me OUT! And I’m sitting in my house and it’s on fire. What will I do? I can’t leave, its comfortable here, it’s safe, it’s what I know, it’s what I love, and take so much pride in. Again he says OUT! But I can’t imagine myself leaving and living anywhere else, it’s my dream home, it’s got everything, and it’s worth everything. OUT! And as the flames scorch my couch I begin to wonder if that’s really Peter talking and not someone who is so much closer.
Too often I try to make my home in this world. I forget that I’ve been called out of it. We are not at home in the world anymore, sojourners and exiles, but our citizenship, our home, is in the kingdom established by Jesus Christ. It was so real and close to Peter who would rather die than deny the reality and vitality of his King and his kingdom. He wasn’t home in this world but went to his true home, where Jesus dwells. So why do I seek the comfort of my old house? I hesitate, I remain until the flames burn my flesh, (passions of the flesh, fear and doubt, pleasure in sin and idolatry), forgetting the reason I left it in the first place—it was rotten and burning.
Christians, we are new, reborn, citizens of a new power and kingdom, not bound by earthly kingdom rules, we don’t fit the mold made for us by the sinful world anymore, we aren’t from around here- we are different. But not for the sake of being different. We are different because we are being made different by the Holy Spirit for the sake and glory of Jesus, for the sake of the Church, for the sake of those who live in scorched homes. All glory and praise to the Holy Father who through the Spirit is at work now and forever and in every circumstance, carving us in the likeness of his Son. Fight to live in the New House of the risen Son today, and get out of that old one.