This Sunday we're starting a new series at Hope, on 1 Peter. I'm really excited to be travelling again through this rich and thrilling part of Scripture. There are many useful books out there on the letter. I'll be using Wayne Grudem's Tyndale commentary, J. Ramsey Michael's (Word Biblical Commentary Series), and I'll be going back to Calvin and Matthew Henry. Last year Tim Chester and Steve Timmis wrote 'Everyday Church'. It's a follow up to 'Total Church', and its strapline is that we do mission by being good neighbours. If you know Steve and Tim's ministries, you'll know that their big emphasis is that the unchurched UK needs more than ever believers who are living committed community lives. That means, committed to one another as the church, and committed to the local community.
In 1 Peter the Apostle is writing to Christians, 'strangers in the world.' He is urging us to live radically different lifestyles from the unconverted. He is not calling us to live as strange people! Our Gospel gives us no mandate for eccentricity, exclusivity, or isolationism. Too often we mistake our calling of being separate for God with an ultimately selfish and completely unbiblical withdrawal from those who need the love of Christ. Didn't Jesus have a few things to say about salt, and light? We are called, and empowered, to the hard lifestyle of loving those lost in their sin, whilst hating sin. We are given the Holy Spirit so that we give ourselves to the needs of others, in the church, and in our day to day contacts. Our mission as a church is to see lost people attracted to the Gospel of our Saviour as they encounter it in our lives, and in the richness of our church's life. Peter tells us that when we do that, then unbelievers have the chance of seeing our good deeds (1 Pe. 2.12). And the Lord only knows what might come of that.
'Mission by being good neighbours, good workers, good family workers - that is what it's all about. In particular, Peter calls us to a distinctive attitude towards others. We live in a culture where it is all about me: my rights, my pleasure, my fulfillment. God's people have an altogether different motto: 'it's not about me; it's about God and others.' That makes a profound difference when we enter the public square or the workplace or the home.' (Everyday Church, p. 116).
How can you be a kind stranger?