Dual Citizens

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Part 5

So Peter defines the believers both by who they are eschatologically (elect) and by who they are geographically (exiles, Diaspora). They have a dual citizenship. The writer of the second century epistle to Diognetus writes, “They reside in their respective countries, but only as aliens they take part in everything as citizens and put up with everything as foreigners. Every foreign land is their home and every home a foreign land. They find themselves in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh.”[1] This dual citizenship enabled them to live out a social ethic, on account of their eschatological hope.[2] The “now/not yet” is bound up in having a foot firmly planted in both kingdoms. The question arises “how then are they supposed to live?”

Peter has an answer for this in 2:11-12. “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” Again, Peter gives a two-fold command: Be holy and live publicly.

The believer’s holiness is based on their Father’s holiness.[3] It is because of God calling them holy that they are to conduct themselves in such a manner. Their minds are to be ready, sober-minded, focused on their hope that they have in Christ, no longer living in the “former passions of their ignorance.”[4] Unlike Paul, who urges his readers to abstain from vast lists of conduct,[5] the closest Peter gets to explicitly stating what these passions are is in 4:3, “living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties and lawless idolatry.” These six prohibitions have public contexts. The Greek word avse,lgeia, here translated “sensuality” refers to a lack of self-constraint which leads to participation with socially unacceptable behavior. Passions, evpiqumi,a, refers to sexual cravings, or lusting. “Drunkenness” refers to individual instances of being drunk, while “orgies” and “drinking parties” refer to public excess done in an organized manner.[6] “Idolatry,” the worship of images, was at the center of 1st Century life. Peter knowingly prohibits behavior that is going to be effected in the public sphere while, at the same time, instructing them to live publicly.

In 2:12, Peter instructs them to keep their conduct honorable amongst the Gentiles. Their lives, which are characterized by an eschatological hope that is effected in their conduct, are going to be on display for those they live among. These are lives that are lived out as a reflection of the grace which they have received from God. Further, in 4:4, Peter tells them that the Gentiles are going to be surprised at their different conduct, which, according to 2:12, will cause them to glorify God when he comes. Living honorably is living “good” or “useful.”[7] In other words, it contributes to the rest of society. These good works, carried out in the public sphere, are done because of their hope that they have in God and in turn display what God has done in their lives by calling them out of the darkness in which they once lived and into a living hope.[8] By not repaying evil for evil, reviling for reviling, but instead blessing, acting out of the unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart and a humble mind, they will be noticed.[9]

[1] Epistle to Diognetus V. 5, 8, quoted in Bruce W. Winter, Seek the Welfare of the City, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 12.

[2] Ibid., 19.

[3] 1 Peter 1:15, 16.

[4] 1 Peter 1:13, 14.

[5] For examples of Paul’s lists, see Ephesians 4:25-5:5; Colossians 3:5-11.

[6] BDAG.

[7] BDAG.

[8] Winter, 20.

[9] 1 Peter 3:8, 9.