Whatever may have defined them before, because of God’s love, by the power of God’s Spirit, they now were born again. And what identity comes with this new birth? Hope. Hope is the family resemblance people recognize. Hope is the family culture. And hope is the family birthright. In 1 Peter 1:4, Peter explains this hope as an inheritance so precious and unprecedented that he can only describe what it is by describing what it’s not.
“Sojourners and exiles.” When Peter wrote his first letter to new believers living in Asia Minor, that’s how he addressed them. Not that they had relocated. For all we know, they were living in the same homes in the same towns that they’d always lived in. They hadn’t moved. But they had become resident aliens — living in one country, belonging to another.
What exactly made them aliens? How were they meant to stand out?
Christians aren’t set off by a specific sort of clothing. We don’t have our own styles of music. We don’t have our own language or even a distinct way of talking. We don’t belong to a specific class or ethnicity. We don’t have unique dietary restrictions. We don’t all live in or hail from a specific geographical area. We aren’t defined or distinguished by any of the things that normally mark off one people from another.
So, what is it that makes Christians to be aliens wherever we go? Peter’s answer is crucial for how we understand our place and engage the communities and cultures where God has placed us. What makes Christians aliens, even in their hometowns, is hope. Hope defines us and distinguishes us.
Hope Defines Us
In 1 Peter 1:3, Peter says God has “caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Born again to a living hope. Think of “birth” as a shorthand for the things that make up who you are.
I was born a McCullough. That came with connotations. It made me a southerner. It made me an Auburn fan.