“ALIENS AND TEMPORARY RESIDENTS” IN THIS WORLD
11, 12. How are we, who, like Abraham, look forward to God’s promises, a people without a country, and how is this backed up by what is written in 1 Peter 2:11, 12?
11 Abraham is indeed an example to us today who look forward to the wonderful things promised to us by the God who does not lie. At present we still have men and women who, in a figurative way, are persons without a country. These are the ones who really have the faith of Abraham. They are the dedicated, baptized disciples of Jesus Christ, the Principal One of the ‘seed of Abraham.’ It is from no wrong standpoint that they are looked upon as a people without a country. This standpoint is backed up by what one of Christ’s disciples, the apostle Peter, wrote in his first letter addressed to those whom he calls “the temporary residents scattered about in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” (1 Pet. 1:1) In what sense were these Christians “temporary residents”? This is shown in chapter two, verses eleven and twelve, where the apostle Peter writes:
12 “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. Maintain your conduct fine among the nations [or, the Gentiles], 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.”—1 Pet. 2:11, 12.
13. (a) However, to whom are we not “aliens,” and why not? (b) Unlike Peter, why shall we not have to move out of their wicked system of things?
13 “Aliens” we dedicated disciples of Christ may be to the world, but how consoling it is to know that we are not “aliens” to God! To him we are no longer “alienated and enemies because [our] minds were on the works that were wicked.” (Col. 1:21) We do not walk “as the nations also walk in the unprofitableness of their minds, while they are in darkness mentally, and alienated from the life that belongs to God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the insensibility of their hearts.” (Eph. 4:17, 18) The apostle Peter and the anointed Christians of his day expected to move out of this worldly system of things in the day of their death and thus no longer be alien sojourners or temporary residents in it. But today, in this twentieth century of the Christian congregation, those of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses who survive the oncoming “great tribulation” will not move out of the system. Why not? Because this wicked system of things will itself be removed from the face of the earth in the “war of the great day of God the Almighty” in which the tribulation will end.—Matt. 24:21, 22; Rev. 7:14; 16:14, 16; 19:11-21.
14. What solid reason did Peter give for anointed Christians to conduct themselves as “aliens and temporary residents” in this world?
14 Do we really profess to be dedicated Christians? Well, then, are we conducting ourselves as “aliens and temporary residents” among the worldly nations in the way advised by the inspired apostle Peter? There was a solid reason why he exhorted Christians who had been given a “new birth to a living hope” that they should carefully conduct themselves as persons in a foreign land. The reason for their doing this was that, as Peter said, “you are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. For you were once not a people, but are now God’s people.” (1 Pet. 1:3; 2:9, 10) Obviously, then, such ones are no longer a part of this world that is alienated from God. They are no longer walking in its darkness, but are light bearers from God. They are in a situation like that of Abraham of long ago.
15. According to 2 Peter 3:13, 14, what is the hope of these Christians who have been given the “new birth”?
15 Their hope is not that of this world. Their hope is one inspired by God’s promise. This promise is now nearing fulfillment, glorious realization. More than nineteen centuries ago Peter penned the words: “There are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell. Hence, beloved ones, since you are awaiting these things, do your utmost to be found finally by him spotless and unblemished and in peace.” (2 Pet. 3:13, 14) Those “new heavens” were the “city” that faithful Abraham awaited so patiently, a heavenly government “having real foundations, the builder and maker of which city is God.” (Heb. 11:10) The “new earth” is the new human society made up of all those who procure a blessing through the spiritual ‘seed of Abraham.’—Gen. 22:18; Rev. 21:1.
CHRISTLIKE NON-INVOLVEMENT WITH THE WORLD
16. So, then, why can Christians not interest themselves in the political affairs and controversies of worldly nations?
16 Since Christians are “aliens and temporary residents” and, as such, are awaiting the fulfillment of such a divine promise, how could they really interest themselves in the political affairs and violent conflicts of worldly nations? If their hearts are truly set on the “new heavens” and a “new earth” in connection with God’s kingdom, they sincerely could not do so!
17. How does one’s obedience to Christ’s words in Matthew 6:32, 33 make it out of order for one to divide one’s attention between God’s kingdom and man-made kingdoms?
17 Jesus Christ said to his disciples: “Your heavenly Father knows you need all these [material] things. Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness.” (Matt. 6:32, 33) Such a seeking of the heavenly Father’s kingdom first would include one’s taking an active part in the carrying out of Jesus’ prophecy: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matt. 24:14) An obedient Christian cannot compromisingly divide his attention and time between the interests of God’s kingdom and the interests of man-made kingdoms and actually be putting God’s kingdom first and gaining his approval.
18. Why do Christians have no right to make themselves a part of this world?
18 Having become “aliens and temporary residents” toward this old world, Christians no longer have the right to make themselves again a part of this world. Were they to do so, then they would not be included in the prayer that Jesus offered to God: “I request you . . . to watch over them because of the wicked one. They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world. Sanctify them by means of the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:15-17) There was sound reason for such a prayer, inasmuch as “the wicked one” is “the ruler of this world.”—John 12:31; 14:30.
19. As “aliens and temporary residents,” what must Christians undergo in this world?
19 Does this world of Devil-ruled mankind love these Christian “aliens and temporary residents” because they consistently refuse to become a part of this world? Well, did the world love Jesus Christ because, as he said, he was “no part of the world”? The disciple is not better than his Master. Consequently Jesus said to his disciples: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you. Bear in mind the word I said to you, A slave is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also; . . . In fact, the hour is coming when everyone that kills you will imagine he has rendered a sacred service to God.” (John 15:18-20; 16:2) In order for the genuine Christian to enter into the fulfillment of God’s promise, he has to undergo faithfully such world hatred and mistreatment.
20. According to Hebrews 10:32-34, what did Christianized Jews, who were hated as Jesus was, need to remember?
20 The Christianized Jews in the Roman province of Judea, and particularly those in its capital Jerusalem, came to know the truth of those warning words of their Messianic Master, Jesus Christ. About twenty-eight years after Jesus spoke the above words, the apostle Paul, who was a Christianized Jew, was in position to write to the Hebrew believers in Jerusalem these strength-reviving words: “Keep on remembering the former days in which, after you were enlightened, you endured a great contest under sufferings, sometimes while you were being exposed as in a theater both to reproaches and tribulations, and sometimes while you became sharers with those who were having such an experience. For you both expressed sympathy for those in prison and joyfully took the plundering of your belongings, knowing you yourselves have a better and an abiding possession.”—Heb. 10:32-34.
As “ambassadors” from God they are “aliens and temporary residents” no matter in what land they are preaching “this good news of the kingdom.” Remembering the apostle Paul’s words, “Our citizenship exists in the heavens” (Phil. 3:20, 21), they appreciate that they have no right or authorization to meddle in political matters. They must remain strictly neutral toward national or local politics and all selfish conflicts of this world.
24. Despite being most law-abiding, what do these “ambassadors” experience from the world, as shown by Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:19, 20?
24 So they are the most law-abiding of people, paying taxes and acting in the best interests of the community.