In Peter’s first letter to the believers scattered throughout several provinces in Asia Minor he refers to them as parepidemoi, "people who are living as foreigners" (NLT), "those temporarily residing abroad" (NET), "aliens, (NJB), "refugees" (Mounce). It’s certainly clear that, from Peter's point of view, those converts had a homeland somewhere else. At the moment they were on a temporary tour of duty in a strange land.
Have you ever lived abroad? It's different. Fun to be there but it’s not home. I've lived in Guatemala, Scotland, Germany, and Israel. Nice places all of them. Each has its own attractions. But I remember the day I rode my Harley back across the border into Texas. Wow! Five days before I had said goodbye to friends in Guatemala. Now I got off my bike and right there in broad daylight dropped to my knees and kissed the ground. I had been "temporarily residing abroad" and was finally home.
Peter calls us parepidemoi because that is exactly what we are here on earth — temporary residents waiting to go to our real home in heaven. The implications of this are life changing. Since we won’t be here very long (how long is a life-span compared to eternity?) we don’t invest in all those things that belong to this world. We don’t get caught up in meaningless cultural pursuits of this world because they have little or no significance for eternity. We invest our time and energy in issues that relate to the life that lies beyond.
Or do we? That is the question. And I ask it, not to create guilt, but to encourage us to maintain a perspective that is genuinely Biblical. One of the formative books in my spiritual experience was Harry Blamires’, The Christian Mind. He argues very convincingly that in the western world a secular view of reality has replaced the distinctively Christian mind-set of earlier days. There was a time when leading minds understood all of life from a Biblical perspective. And that is what Peter is saying when he calls Christian believers sojourners, aliens, refugees. And Paul is one with the fisherman when he encourages us (in the oft-quoted translation by J. B. Phillips), “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold” (Romans 12:2). Where do you want to live?