When I bought my first car (a 1972 Impala!), I went out and bought a map. Remember those things? And whenever I got lost, I would pull over at a gas station, pull out the map and see where I was and where I was going. The problem was I often didn’t know where I was, so I didn’t know where I needed to go! I can’t tell you how many times I asked a gas station clerk how to get somewhere! Then the internet came and a glorious thing called MapQuest. And thousands of trees were cut down because so many of us printed out directions to everywhere we needed to go! And then, if you were geeky and had the money, you bought a GPS for your car (I always wanted one of those). A GPS actually gave you real time directions, unless you were Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute of the show The Office, and you ended up driving into a lake! Then the glorious IPhone hit stores and suddenly we all had a GPS device in our back pocket. Out of all my Apps, MAP is the one App I can’t live without. Even if I know the way, I still plug in directions. The only frustrating thing about the Map App is that sometimes it can’t locate me. Ever happen to you? If it can’t locate me then it can’t tell me where I need to go. I’m stuck!
The same is true with the Christian life. You need to know where you are (and who you are) before you know where you are going (and where you need to be going).
At the end of Peter’s greeting in First Peter, he declares God’s blessing to those who are in Christ, “Grace and peace be yours in abundance.” Grace, the unmerited favor of God. Peace, the inward state when you’re experiencing the goodness of God. Peace is the Hebrew idea of shalom and wholeness. This is Peter’s desire for the people of God, that they would know, enjoy, live in and from the grace and peace of God toward them. That is who they are. That is where they are on God’s “map”.
What about you? Do you know who you are? Do you know where you are going? Theologian Thomas Schreiner put it this way, “Those who understand themselves as God’s elect have the ammunition to resist the norms and culture of the society they inhabit.” If you are going to make it in the Bay Area (or anywhere else in the world) as a follower of Jesus, you will need to learn how to live as foreigners and exiles in a society that thinks we are irrelevant and extreme. If you go to church regularly, read the Bible, pray to Jesus, believe in only one way to heaven, give money away to the church, and do many of the things we see in the life of Jesus, people here will say, “What is wrong with you!?” In North America, we might not be persecuted like the early church or Christians living in hostile countries, but we shouldn’t be surprised when it comes.
Do you understand who you are before God? Is your primary identity in being part of God’s family or part of society that does not accept you? Do you find your primary identity as Americans or Christians? Peter tells us to find our identity in being God’s elect. You may be exiles in respect to society, but you have been chosen by God, now go live like it!