The church? Nope. Martin Luther King Jr. said years ago that Sunday morning is one of the most racially segregated places in America, and it is still true today.
I read an article this week that posed the question I started with. The one place in our society that still considers everyone impartially is the field of medicine. The author, Atul Gawande, tells a story about how he had to treat a scary prisoner who was making threatening comments. How would you feel if you were supposed to treat that patient? You’d have to be impartial.
Today as we continue our study in 1st Peter, Peter mentions the concept of partiality as foundational to the concept I mentioned yesterday, strangers.
I mentioned how off-kilter we can feel when we are placed in the position of being a stranger. Today Peter addresses his readers as “strangers”, and he connects strangerhood with partiality.
Read 1 Peter 1:17-21 and 2:11-12. (Then glance back at 1 Peter 1:1-2 where Peter started his letter by calling his readers “strangers in the world.”) Did you see how Peter repeats this description of his audience? In 1:17, he calls them “strangers”, and 2:11 he calls them “aliens and strangers”. The Christians Peter was writing to were more than likely refugees in their lands. Some of them had to flee to new areas to avoid religious persecution. Some of them were ethnically different from the people around them. But Peter has another deeper reason for calling them strangers and aliens. He seems to hint that their status as aliens and strangers is as it should be. Why? We’ll get to that tomorrow.
Before he delves in the importance of them living as strangers and aliens, Peter reminds them that God is impartial. He says “Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.” Why does he bring God’s impartiality into this discussion?
The author of the article I mentioned above wasn’t saying that all doctors and nurses and hospitals are perfectly impartial, but he was saying that impartiality should be their goal. I thought it was also an argument that should be made for Christians and the church. Why? Because Peter is right, our God is impartial! He treats everyone the same. We are all equally loved and valued in his eyes. We love to apply that thought to ourselves. God loves me! But when we start to apply God’s impartiality to the whole world, it can be hard to take.
ISIS people who chop the heads off captives? Equally loved by God.
Registered sex offenders who live in our neighborhoods? Equally loved by God.
Muslims celebrating Ramadan? Equally loved by God.
The super annoying neighbor or family member or co-worker or Facebook-poster? Equally loved by God.
Republicans and Democrats? Equally loved by God.
Illegal aliens from Mexico who want to jump over a border wall? Loved by God.
You are all loved by God. The people you hate are loved by God. The people who have hurt you are deeply loved by God.
And when you have that kind of love going for you, you can live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. Our ability to live as strangers is rooted in the impartial love of God. God is for us. If we feel alone at a new job, if we are having a hard time making friends at a new school, if our neighbors are not speaking to us, and if we have a broken relationship in our family, all of these things can make us feel like strangers in the world. But in the midst of any situation that leaves us feeling like strangers or aliens, we can always know that our impartial God loves us. Other people may judge unfairly and make us feel like strangers, but God will always love us impartially.
The impartial love of God is foundational for living our lives as strangers here in reverent fear! Do you need to be reminded of how much God loves you? Do you need to spend time alone with God, just soaking up the passages of Scripture that affirm God’s love? Do you need to reflect on the amazing self-giving love of Jesus, of his birth, life, death and resurrection?
One of my favorite reminders of God’s love is Romans 8:31-39. Maybe read this a couple times, and let the truth of God’s love for you sink deep into your heart and mind:
31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Check back in tomorrow as we hear what Peter says about how to live as strangers in the world!