“I exhort you as aliens and temporary residents to keep abstaining from fleshly desires.”—1 PET. 2:11.
1, 2. Whom did Peter refer to with the expression “the ones chosen,” and why did he call them “temporary residents”?
SOME 30 years after Jesus ascended to heaven, the apostle Peter addressed a letter to “the temporary residents scattered about in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, to the ones chosen.” (1 Pet. 1:1) Clearly, by the term “the ones chosen,” Peter referred to those who, like him, had been anointed by holy spirit and given “a new birth to a living hope” to rule with Christ in the heavens. (Read 1 Peter 1:3, 4.) But why did he thereafter call these chosen ones “aliens and temporary residents”? (1 Pet. 2:11) And what meaning does this have for us today when only about 1 in 650 active Witnesses throughout the world lays claim to being an anointed chosen one?
2 It was fitting to apply the term “temporary residents” to anointed ones in the first century. As is true of the remnant of this group alive today, their existence on earth was not permanent. The apostle Paul, himself a member of the anointed “little flock,” explained: “As for us, our citizenship exists in the heavens, from which place also we are eagerly waiting for a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Luke 12:32; Phil. 3:20) Given that their “citizenship exists in the heavens,” at death anointed ones will leave the earthly scene for something far better, immortal life in the heavens. (Read Philippians 1:21-23.) Thus, in a very literal way, they could be termed mere “temporary residents” of the earth under Satan’s control.
3. What question about the “other sheep” now arises?
3 But what about the “other sheep”? (John 10:16) Do they not have a Scripturally well-founded hope of becoming permanent residents of the earth? Indeed, that will be their home forever! Still, in a sense they too can at present be considered temporary residents. In what sense?
“ALL CREATION KEEPS ON GROANING”
4. What are world leaders helpless to prevent?
4 As long as Satan’s wicked system is allowed to exist, everyone, including Christians, will continue to suffer the consequences of Satan’s rebellion against Jehovah. We read at Romans 8:22: “We know that all creation keeps on groaning together and being in pain together until now.” World leaders, scientists, and humanitarians, however sincere, are helpless to prevent this.
5. Since 1914, what step have millions taken, and why?
5 Since 1914, millions have therefore chosen to become willing subjects of God’s enthroned King, Christ Jesus. They have no desire to be a part of Satan’s world system. They refuse to be supporters of Satan’s world. Instead, they use their lives and assets in support of God’s Kingdom, serving its interests.—Rom. 14:7, 8.
6. In what sense can Jehovah’s Witnesses be called aliens?
6 Yes, Jehovah’s Witnesses are law-abiding citizens in over 200 countries, yet regardless of where they live, they are like aliens. They maintain a position of strict neutrality as regards the political and social issues of the day. Even now, they consider themselves to be citizens of a new world, one of God’s making. They rejoice to see their days of temporary residence in an imperfect world system rapidly drawing to a close.
7. How will servants of God become permanent residents, and of what?
7 Soon Christ will exercise his authority to destroy Satan’s wicked system. Christ’s perfect government will free the earth of sin and sorrow. It will remove all visible and invisible traces of rebellion against Jehovah’s rightful sovereignty. Loyal servants of God will be in a position to become permanent residents of the earthly Paradise. (Read Revelation 21:1-5.) In a full sense, creation will then have been “set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.”—Rom. 8:21.
WHAT IS EXPECTED OF TRUE CHRISTIANS?
8, 9. Explain what Peter meant by “abstaining from fleshly desires.”
8 Peter explains what is expected of Christians when he goes on to say: “Beloved, I exhort you as aliens and temporary residents to keep abstaining from fleshly desires, which are the very ones that carry on a conflict against the soul.” (1 Pet. 2:11) That advice was first directed to anointed Christians, but it is equally valid for Jesus’ other sheep.
9 Some desires, when satisfied in the manner decreed by the Creator, are not wrong in themselves. Indeed, they add pleasure to life. For example, there are the normal desires to enjoy good food and drink, to participate in refreshing activities, and to find delight in wholesome companionship. Even the desire for sexual pleasure with one’s marriage mate is fitting and has its place. (1 Cor. 7:3-5) Peter, though, correctly limited the “fleshly desires” of which he was speaking to those that “carry on a conflict against the soul.” Making it obvious just what is meant, some Bible translations speak of “fleshly lusts” (King James Version) or “sinful desires” (New International Version). Clearly, any human desire that conflicts with Jehovah’s expressed purpose and that could negatively affect one’s good relationship with God must be kept in check. Otherwise a Christian’s hope of keeping his soul alive could be seriously endangered.
10. What are some methods that Satan uses to get Christians to become a part of his world?
10 Satan’s goal is to weaken the determination of true Christians to view themselves as “temporary residents” in the present system. The glamour of materialism, the seduction of immorality, the attractiveness of prominence, the flattering appeal of “me first,” and the magnetism of nationalism—these are all traps of Satan and must be identified as such. By our being determined to refrain from these negative fleshly desires, we show clearly that we do not want to be a part of Satan’s wicked world. We give evidence that we are living in it only temporarily. What we really want and are striving hard to achieve is permanent residency in God’s new world of righteousness.
11, 12. How are foreigners sometimes viewed, and what can be said about Jehovah’s Witnesses?
11 Peter continues his explanation of what is expected of Christian “temporary residents,” saying in verse 12: “Maintain your conduct fine among the nations, that, in the thing in which they are speaking against you as evildoers, they may as a result of your fine works of which they are eyewitnesses glorify God in the day for his inspection.” Foreigners, temporary residents in a land not their own, are at times criticized. Simply because they differ from their neighbors, they may even be viewed as if they were evildoers. Their speech, their actions, their dress, perhaps even their appearance may be somewhat different. But when they do good works, that is to say, when their conduct is fine, negative comments about their being different are proved groundless.
12 Similarly, true Christians differ from many of their neighbors in certain respects, as in conversation or choice of entertainment. Their dress and grooming often identify them as being different from most in the community. These differences have sometimes led misinformed individuals to accuse them of being, as it were, evildoers. However, other people may praise them for their way of life.
13, 14. How is wisdom “proved righteous by its works”? Illustrate.
13 Yes, fine conduct can work to counteract unjustified criticism. Even Jesus, the only man ever to live in perfect faithfulness to God, was falsely accused. Some called him “a man gluttonous and given to drinking wine, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” The fact was, though, that his course of wisdom in serving God disproved the claims that he was a wrongdoer. “Wisdom is proved righteous by its works,” Jesus said. (Matt. 11:19) That is so today too. As an example, some of their neighbors view as strange the brothers and sisters serving at the Bethel complex in Selters, Germany. But the mayor of the community spoke out in their behalf, reasoning: “The Witnesses who serve there have their own way of life, but one that in no way disturbs the lives of others in the community.”
14 A similar conclusion was recently reached in connection with Jehovah’s Witnesses living in Moscow, Russia. They had been falsely accused of a number of wrong acts. Then in June 2010, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, ruled: “The Court finds that [Moscow’s] interference with the applicants’ right to freedom of religion and association was not justified. The domestic courts did not adduce ‘relevant and sufficient’ reasons to show that the applicant community” was guilty, for instance, of breaking up families, inciting suicide, or refusing medical care. Thus, “the sanction pronounced by the domestic courts was excessively severe in view of the lack of flexibility in the domestic law and disproportionate to whatever legitimate aim was pursued.”
15. True Christians worldwide follow what Bible principle?
15 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moscow—in fact, worldwide—fulfill a further requirement for Christians as outlined by Peter. He wrote: “For the Lord’s sake subject yourselves to every human creation: whether to a king as being superior or to governors.” (1 Pet. 2:13, 14) Although being no part of the wicked world, true Christians willingly subject themselves to government authorities “in their relative positions,” even as Paul instructed them.—Read Romans 13:1, 5-7.
16, 17. (a) What proves that we are not against governments? (b) What have some political leaders acknowledged?
16 When Jehovah’s Witnesses conduct themselves as “temporary residents” in the present system, they are not doing so as part of some silent civil protest; neither do they oppose or interfere with others who make their own political or social decisions. Unlike some other religious groups, Jehovah’s Witnesses refrain from meddling in politics. They never try to dictate policy matters to civil authorities. The idea that they would attempt to disrupt public order or undermine the government is completely without foundation!
17 By obeying public officials in accord with Peter’s counsel to “have honor for the king,” Christians show the respect and honor that accords with the positions of those officials. (1 Pet. 2:17) At times, officials have acknowledged that they have no valid reason for being concerned about Jehovah’s Witnesses. For example, German politician Steffen Reiche, former cabinet minister in the state of Brandenburg and later member of the German parliament, said: “The conduct of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the camps and prisons embodies virtues that are as essential today as they were in the past for the existence of a democratic constitutional state: namely, their steadfastness against the SS and their compassion toward their fellow prisoners. Given the increasing brutality against foreigners and against political or ideological dissenters, these virtues are a must for every citizen of our country.”
18. (a) Why is it natural for us to love the whole association of brothers? (b) What have some non-Witnesses noted?
18 The apostle Peter wrote: “Have love for the whole association of brothers, be in fear of God.” (1 Pet. 2:17) Jehovah’s Witnesses have a healthy fear of displeasing God, and this provides them with added motivation to do his will. They are happy to be serving Jehovah as part of a worldwide association of brothers and sisters who have the same desire. Therefore, it is only natural for them to “have love for the whole association of brothers.” Such brotherly love, which is so rare in today’s selfish society, comes at times as a surprise to non-Witnesses. For example, a tour guide working with an American travel agency was amazed at the affection and assistance shown by the Witnesses to foreign delegates at an international convention in Germany in 2009. She said that in all her years of serving as a guide, she had never seen anything like it. Later, one of the Witnesses remarked: “Everything she said about us was expressed in a tone of amazement and enthusiasm.” Have you heard similar reactions of people who observed the Witnesses at a convention that you have attended?
19. What should we be determined to do, and why?
19 In all the above ways—and more—Jehovah’s Witnesses demonstrate that in a real sense, they are “temporary residents” in Satan’s present system. And they are joyfully determined to remain such. Their hope that they will shortly become permanent residents of God’s new world of righteousness is strong and well-founded. Are you not looking forward to that?