Tuesday, April 7, 2015

God GETS me: 1 Peter 1

When I was young (a long long time ago) I learned a song that went like this:
"Nobody likes me. Everybody hates me. Guess I'll go eat some worms."
Sometimes it feels like that, especially when you are a foreigner living in a strange place, especially if you live in the home of someone from a different culture. Sometimes it feels like "nobody GETS me, noone understands me."

Last Sunday was Easter and we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus and Pastor Ruel shared from the first letter Peter wrote (1Peter). Here is how the letter opens.

This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy
It is easy to imagine he is writing to Filipino brothers and sisters who are living as foreigners in Hong Kong, Saudi, UAE, Malaysia, Singapore, Kuwait, etc. Life as a foreigner is hard: separation from loved ones, feelings of displacement, the stress that comes from day to day living in a foreign land, listening to Cantonese and HK English, dealing with HK culture. Yesterday on the minibus a little boy behind us was talking about the "Kweilos" sitting in front of him. Being a foreigner also means being deprived of the foods you love, not watching silly Pinoy TV shows, and NOT being able to walk down an unpaved road in shorts, a tank top and flip flops. Living as a foreigner can be tough.

The first thing I want you to know is: God GETS it. He understands you. He had Peter write a letter to you, to those of us who "live as foreigners". In fact Peter writes "the Father knew you and chose you long ago" . The Father knows me. He understands exactly what I am going through. He knows how hard it is to live as a foreigner is a strange land. And
           (sound of car tires screeching as we slam on the brakes)
He chose me for this life. God chose you long ago to belong to him, to know him. He knew where you would live and the fact that you ARE where you ARE is part of his plan.

The 2nd thing I want to point out is: living as a foreigner is a choice.  Breaking News: Not all of the "foreigners" Peter wrote to were "foreigners". There is some debate about this, but many scholars think the word "foreigners" might be a reference to followers of Jesus who lived in these areas. Their lifestyles, their outlooks on life, their values and their character were so different from the people around them that seemed like "foreigners." The Christians were persecuted for following Jesus and the society around them saw their devotion to Christ as a threat.

If you or I returned to our country of origin, would our Christian life be so radical that we seemed "foreign"? How can I be "foreign" in a good sense and not a bad sense?

Here is my dilemna: Some Christians seem "foreign" because they are just plain "weird". They can be opinionated, bigoted, judgmental and unloving. They are radical, but not in a beautiful way. Other Christians blend right into the culture so much that you can't recognize them, buying into the culture of trying to look sexy or wealthy or hip. (If you don't what "hip" is - ask your grandmother). God wants you and I to be "foreign"  in the right way, living as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, living rightly and loving people radically.

Heavenly Father, You are behind this "foreign life". You chose us for this life. You understand what it feels like. Jesus, you lived like an OFW for 30+ years and died on the cross so that we could become citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. You rose from the dead so we could experience God's great mercy. Thank you for understanding our dilemna. Help us today to be "foreign" in the right sense of the word; to live lives of radical in integrity and love, to be sacrificial in the service we give others, to be bold in explaining your love to those around us.  Amen.