Christianity’s role in American culture is changing. Regardless of our political leanings, I suspect that we all agree that our society is on a trajectory that is inconsistent with the teachings of orthodox, biblical Christianity.
It’s confusing for many of us, and probably alarming. We fear that God might abandon us, and we’re scared of what our society will look like when our children or grandchildren are grown.
Those are real concerns. America is not and never has been “God’s elect people” in any sense, of course, but it is consistent with what we know of God’s nature to acknowledge that his patience with aggressive rebellion against him knows limits. In other words, God very well might choose to remove his staying influence from this country.
But he never abandons the church. The relationship between church and state that we’ve experienced since the founding of this country is unprecedented in many ways, and it’s an anomaly in the world today. The normal state of events between the nations of humanity and God’s people is hostility. The state views Christianity as a threat to its dominance, and it often acts with violence against people of faith.
And yet that is no reason to despair. The Christians to which Peter is writing in 1 Peter were struggling, and in some ways their struggles parallel our own. They were trying to figure out what it means to be Christians in the face of rising hostility.
As he writes this letter to these Christians, Peter calls them “elect exiles,” an important description for them and for us. Drawing on the background of Judah in exile in Babylon, Peter reminds Christians of some fundamental things about what it means to live as God’s people in a “strange land.”