What’re Exiles to Do? Be a Refuge for Fellow Exiles

Posted by R. Fowler White

Even as exiles in this world, we Christians desire to lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way (1 Tim 2:2). There’s no doubt that we American Christians have had it better than our persecuted siblings in other times and places, even in the NT era. Like other “traditional Americans,” many of us see the prospect of that peaceful and quiet life exemplified in the promise of the American Experiment, designed as it was to secure the unalienable rights with which we and our fellow citizens are endowed by our Creator. Too frequently, however, it seems that skilled polemicists have manipulated our trust, convincing us that they share our belief in the promise of America when, in fact, they redefine it for personal, political, or commercial gain. Acting as mere power brokers, these pugilists apply a double standard to snub those they deem deplorable, to decry those they consider lawless, and otherwise to hinder certain of their fellow citizens’ prospects for a peaceful and quiet life. As new Orwellian measures of population control take hold, no one seems to know how to dispel the anger and fear among those convinced that their unalienable rights are now less secure and their prospects for a peaceful and quiet life are now more remote. In such an environment, what becomes of that peaceful and quiet life that the Apostle would have us lead? What  does God require of “traditional American” Christians who are members and officers of His church? The Apostle Peter offers at least part of the answer in 1 Pet 3:8-12.

As he did during those NT days under the fickle thumb of imperial Rome, Peter commands that we be a refuge for fellow Christian exiles, a holy haven exhibiting five virtues (3:8). The first and fifth of these traits—be like-minded and humble-minded—actually share a verbal component in the original text, and so it’s best to take them together. Truth shared is the basis of love shared, so like-mindedness in confession is indispensable to being Christ’s refuge. As the fellowship of the Spirit of truth, it is like-mindedness in truth that binds us together in love, and its complement is humble-mindedness. Rejecting self-interested competition, we’re to commit to the common good, sacrificing individual interests for the interests of the whole. Two other traits, the second and fourth mentioned by Peter, will also mark Christ’s holy haven: be sympathetic and tender-hearted. To understand this synonymous pair, Paul’s words offer the best commentary: rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep (Rom 12:15). If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together (1 Cor 12:26). Holding all five virtues together is the third virtue listed by Peter: be brotherly, that is, love your family members in the household of faith. As he does in 1:22 and 2:17, Peter again commands us to heed carefully the Second Great Commandment. We’re to promote the good of our siblings by building such community with them that together we offer sacrifices pleasing to God (1:21–2:10). What’s Peter aiming for here in these five virtues? A refuge for fellow exiles who will support each other as they pursue godly and dignified lives in a hostile world.

Even as we’re to be a holy haven for our fellow Christian exiles, we must also know how to deal with critics. Anticipating his fuller teaching on persecution from non-Christians in 1 Pet 3:13–4:19, Peter tells us initially how to defend ourselves against insults and verbal abuse. Perhaps unexpectedly, he says, show your critics favor, not disfavor (3:9a). But why this tactic? Because in the blessed life to which God has called us, we’re not to live a life of retaliation, but of repentance; not of payback, but of conversion. Since we’re now at odds with non-Christians, we cannot avoid insult and evil, pain and suffering, so as to see only good days. Rather, despite insult and evil, despite pain and suffering, we can live godly and dignified lives in communion with God. In fellowship with Him, we watch how we talk and how we walk (1 Pet 3:10-11). As Jesus taught us: Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you (Luke 6:28). As Paul stated: See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone (1 Thess 5:15; cf. Rom 12:17; 1 Cor 4:12). So, when we’re insulted, we’re not to insult in return. When we suffer, we’re not to retaliate with threats. We’re to live our lives before our Lord who not only requires us to live a godly and dignified life but who also inspects the way we live our lives (3:12). Meanwhile, we live our lives knowing that the ears of the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls are open to hear our prayers that we might break the cycle of verbal abuse and other evils that only spirals downward.

What, then, are Christian exiles to do if we’re convinced that our unalienable rights are less secure and our prospects for a peaceful and quiet life are more remote? Whatever else Scripture may teach us, following Peter’s directions, God requires us to be a refuge where with fellow Christians we pursue godly and dignified lives before Him who alone judges justly.

5 Comments

  1. January 13, 2021 at 12:23 pm

    While I don’t disgree in general, the Reformed Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrate shows that there are limits. When the two spheres conflict, we are to obey God, not man.

  2. rfwhite said,

    January 13, 2021 at 12:35 pm

    Yes, agreed. That’s why I added the words, “The Apostle Peter offers at least part of the answer in 1 Pet 3:8-12 …” and “Whatever else Scripture may teach us ….” Interesting, isn’t it? The Apostle who wrote 1 Pet 3:8-12 (and 3:13-4:19) spoke the words recorded in Acts 5:29.

  3. Randall Bachman said,

    January 16, 2021 at 5:59 pm

    Wonderful series of articles on 1 Peter. I have been seeking answers from 1 Peter for a couple of months now. Your excellent breadcrumbs have given me a better idea of the path. Will you be continuing? If so, I am very interested in preparing for persecution. Real persecution, right here in the former USA. You have laid out the prolegamena. So I am ready to hear the hard message of fiery trials, scourging, etc. I am really concerned about developing solid Biblical discernment and criteria for when to take a stand in the face of persecution, and when its not yet time. I find it hard to imagine taking a life-or-death stand on clergy vestments and prayer books, as in the 16th and 17th centuries, but use of proper pronouns? Customer interaction? Masks? I want to take a stand when a stand needs to be taken, but I don’t want to be guilty of causing the name of Christ to be somehow dishonored by a misguided zeal for something not that important. Thanks

  4. rfwhite said,

    January 16, 2021 at 6:11 pm

    Very glad you find the series edifying. You asked, “Will you be continuing?” I do plan to continue. As you can tell, I skipped ahead from the end of chap. 1 to the middle of chap. 3, basically because of the broader reference and seemingly more current relevance in the Apostle’s exhortations. I expect to go back to pick up the thread from chap. 1 and also to move ahead, God willing.

  5. March 29, 2021 at 12:57 pm

    […] reflect on Peter’s instructions in 4:7-11, the more we see the ethos that he expects from us as a holy haven for marginalized exiles. In a phrase, he sets before us “the communion of the saints.” It is a vision in which […]


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