Foreigners and Exiles

Reflecting on the nature of the Church as a Diaspora Community and some implications for Mission and Discipleship

by David Ball

The nature of the Church in 1 Peter

In his first letter, Peter writes ‘God’s elect, exiles, scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia’ (1 Peter 1:1). As we read what follows, we can easily begin to build a theology of the church (ecclesiology):

... chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood (v.2)

Later, Peter identifies the church as ‘chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession’ (2:9). These are categories that we are happy to use to define the church throughout history. However, immediately after this, Peter also identifies the believers as ‘foreigners and exiles’ (2:11). It is easy for us to miss the significance in Peter’s epistle of the fact that the church to which he writes are primarily ‘foreigners and exiles’ and ‘scattered’.

Discipling the Diaspora

Jesus’ final command on earth was to make disciples of ‘all nations’. Amazingly, many of those nations have come to Malaysia! An estimated 6.7 million migrants or refugees are right here in our country. We need not cross the seas to reach them; we just need to cross the street!

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