To God’s elect, strangers in the world…. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy…. Live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear…. Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul (1 Peter 1:1b, 8, 17; 2:11).
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29).
As I was reading the words in First Peter, I was struck by the interplay between the seen and the unseen realms. On one hand, there is the visible world in which we live. We interact with it daily and it is as familiar to us as the ocean is to a tuna fish. We are in our element. We know the customs, systems, and expectations of this world (or, perhaps more narrowly in my case, the Western Canadian cultural context). But apparently, according to 1 Peter, we are to count ourselves as aliens and foreigners in society. This world is not supposed to be our home; there is supposed to be something uncomfortable about this place. This would amount to the dislocation I would feel as a Western Canadian going to the East Coast, not to mention Serbia or Singapore.
On the other hand, there is God, the one who we have not seen, and yet the text calls us to have an affection toward him that outranks our allegiance to this world. Our hearts are to find their true home in the reality of a God who loves us and for whom we have a great love. This reminded me of the words of Jesus as above, which have come back to me a number of times in the last number of months during prayer times and at other random points throughout the day. The greater blessings is actually in not seeing him, because we have a chance to exercise faith — belief and action.
How is this possible? How can we trade our connection to the visible world for an even greater connection to the spiritual world, which is anchored in the reality of Christ? How can what is so familiar to us become less familiar, while the presence of God becomes more so, such that the latter eclipses the former? For me, a good start would be to make a more regular habit of focused connection to God, whether through Scripture, prayer, meditation, or enjoying a period of solitude in the creation that he has made. Only in this way, the reality of Jesus will begin to eclipse the allure of the visible realm. It is a matter of marking and implementing priorities.
Invisible and loving Father, draw our hearts to you. May the things of this world fade in importance. May we dwell in the reality of your love and presence until that becomes more natural to us, and of greater value and attraction, than the business of this world. Not that we want to be removed from this world, or desire that our power and influence here should lessen. Rather, as you permeate our experience, we become salt and light to this world in an even greater way. Help us see that the unseen is the truer thing, and the visiblde world a poor shadow and imitation of what you have prepared for us. And give us patience and grace, while we yet abide on this earth, to ourselves reflect the greater reality of the Spirit.