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The book of 1 Peter is a letter, and so it quite naturally begins with a greeting.  It says who it’s from (the apostle Peter), who it’s to (the scattered churches of Asia Minor), and offers a blessing.  But summarizing it like that misses the profoundly theological statement about identity that Peter communicates even in his opening lines.

For Peter introduces himself in a way that draws attention to Jesus Christ.  He uses the nickname Jesus gave him (Peter), and identifies himself as an apostle of Christ–that is, someone who speaks not for himself, but for Christ Jesus his Lord.  Peter’s identity is found in Jesus.

Then, when he turns to his addressees, he puts their identity in theological perspective too.  They are ‘elect exiles’ or ‘chosen foreigners’, strangers in the world because they are citizens of God’s kingdom.  And this chosen identity is elaborated in a trinitarian description of salvation, that “have been 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” (1 Pet. 1:2, NIV).  Their identity is formed by God’s saving work for and in them.

In a world so confused about identity, in a culture that wears a thousand masks to hide its face, Christians must be firmly rooted in their God-defined identity.  We are ‘elect exiles,’ strangers in the world, sent to proclaim the kingdom of He who has overcome the world.

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