Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
Psalm 139. 7-10
The gap year and global travel are now must have aspects of life for many. If like me you missed out on a gap year, I’m not sure I had even heard of it, between education and work then in retirement, the second window of freedom, it is eagerly grasped. This notion of broadening one’s horizons and getting to grips with alternative cultures although so much easier now mostly remains in global terms a privileged pastime. Where the poorest have globally travelled it has often been more forced rather than chosen for pleasure. I am thinking of migrants who have travelled to work as domestic servants or labourers leaving family behind and transferring nearly all of their meagre earnings to their family at home. There are also the migrants who risk their lives travelling huge distances at great personal cost on the vague hope of a safer life in a strange often western country.
The world is undeniably much more connected now than at any time in history. Information is passed almost instantaneously on any subject. Access to information is usually not the question, it is reliability of information that is more uncertain. What then can a letter, handwritten and personally delivered to a few scattered house churches in Asia Minor two thousand years ago have to valuably say when compared to the wealth of information now available in our information rich, globally connected world?
Peter’s first letter does have historically and culturally specific aspects. It mentions the Emperor, a temple and specific religious practices no longer undertaken but in all of these there are valid ways of applying them to modern life. The letter takes a very wide view, it scans God’s salvation plan for human history placing us between Christ’s resurrection and his return. It shows how Christ is the culmination of the Old Testament narrative and the hope for the future not only for the Jewish nation but for all nations. It is a letter with a sharp global perspective.
At the heart of the message is the importance of Jesus’ resurrection because it is through the resurrection of Jesus that he has formed a new global people who are to be to the world his race or people and his priesthood. 1.3-5, 2.9a They are to be from all nations and races of equal worth to him. They are to have one mission in life and that is to reveal God in all his glory, mercy and holiness to the world. 2.9b They are to do this through their life style and communicating God’s word.
This is very good news and will bring its own eternal reward. However, it will be personally costly and followers of Jesus should expect that to be normal. 4.12 Life now for the global Christian is a pilgrimage, they are aliens in an unbelieving society, journeying to our true home. ‘Wherever believers live around the globe, this fallen world is not our home. As Paul put it, “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3.20)’. 1On this pilgrimage Christ is the example and the substitutionary saviour. Peter speaks of Christ as an example to follow (2.21-23, 4.2, 13-14) as well as a saviour (1.18-19, 2.24, 3.18). The gospels or life stories of Jesus now provide reliable accounts of Jesus character, work and teachings so that Christians are able to understand and follow him.
Peter also wants the global church to have hope even when they suffer for, ‘a little while’ 5.10 in God’s judgement, justice and glory. As Christians across the world journey together they are to be bound together in a supportive unity. They are to intercede for one another, bear each others’ burdens, advocate for each other and reach out in mercy and kindness. At all times they are to keep in view the glorious inheritance that awaits them.
He’s got the whole world in His hand – Mahalia Jackson (Like you’ve never heard it before)