In my short life I’ve moved five times prior to being married and eight times since being married. This has meant living in four distinct areas of the province of Ontario and also a five year period overseas.
Two locations, more than the others, helped me to know what it meant to be an exile, and also the Christian’s call not to be of or love the world.
Living in England, as similar as it is to historic Canada, and as much as I fit within its culture, there was also, as a resident, the reminder that I was an exile. Every time I spoke was enough to indicate that I wasn’t from there (though the more time I spent there the more my accent did change, then people thought I was Irish or Botswanan!) and the privileges of a citizen that were not available to a resident meant that no matter how much I felt a part of the culture I didn’t belong.
Second, having spent time overseas and then moving back to my native province, yet after considerable and rapid liberalization, the very province I returned to didn’t feel like the province I had known.
Through these experience I’ve learned a lot about living as an exile and how worldliness is sin.
1 Peter is addressed to the “elect exiles” (v. 1). Election is a reminder to these believers of their assurance in Christ; exile that this world is not their home, their citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3). Christians are aliens, living in this world but not of it, instead ambassadors of Christ’s heavenly kingdom, to be captivated by our allegiance to its King and His values.
The tension we feel between our heavenly values and the world’s values serve as an ever present reminder of our other-worldliness.
All of Scripture resounds with the call for the Christian to fix their eyes on Jesus (Heb 12:2; Mt 5:6, 6:33; Col 3:1–4). We are to cling lightly to this world and highly esteem instead eternal things.
If we love the world we will be sorely disappointed. If we love the world too much we may indeed show we’re not of Christ but it:
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides for ever. (1 Jn 2:15–17).
So, may we remember that we are exiles and aliens and love our Kingdom and King vs the age in which we presently live.
“Raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens…” Those might be familiar lyrics from Julie Andrew in the Sound of Music when she sang to the children of good things in the midst of a thunderstorm to calm their troubled spirits. Thinking good thoughts, however, is insufficient to change the outcome of a situation, but in the midst of life’s troubles it is a pleasing thing to rejoice in the little things the Lord brings the believer’s way.
That is the wisdom of Ecclesiastes:
…that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. (Eccl 3:13; c.f. 5:18–20, 7:14a, 8:15, 9:7–9, 11:9).
The believer is not guaranteed blessed ease in this life (though we easily fall prey to believing the prosperity lie); finding meaning in pleasure is a vain mist, wishful thinking, like chasing after the wind. But we can rejoice in God’s grace and goodness that He does send us in the midst of life’s troubles. We cannot control them, they are not guaranteed (we certainly don’t deserve them), but when they come, we can enjoy them as a gift from God.
The Christian life is often described as a pilgrimage. The journey is not the destination. Along the way to heaven, like a trip, there will be hills and wild animals and snowstorms, but there will also be panoramic views, still streams and sweet meadows. Total trust in the Lord enables us to be content in suffering and free to enjoy the blessings we do receive.
So the next time you hear a beautiful piece of music, behold a masterful sunset, have a cherished moment with your child, sip a good cup of tea, smell a fragrant flower, share in a good meal with friends, experience a warm summer’s rain or a beam of sunshine on your face, take a pleasant walk, hold your spouse’s hand, feel a quilts warm embrace, read a good book, take a trip down memory lane, enjoy the comfort of home in a snowstorm, savour a fireside chat or receive a letter from a friend—don’t simply “remember my favourite things”—delight in the gift that the Gift Giver has given you, and give Him thanks.
 Ecclesiastes very much speaks wisdom to everyone, and in His common grace, God gives unbelievers tender mercies too, however, central to accessing the wisdom Ecclesiastes’ offer is “the fear of the Lord” and hence why I have the believer in view here.
 Ecclesiastes actually sees God as the ultimate author of even our hardships. See Eccl 7:13 and 14. Rather than feeling like life (and God) are less than our troubles, when we see He has ordained them, we rest in a trust in Him and thus are freed to submit to His good purposes in them.
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.