“I exhort you as aliens and temporary residents to keep abstaining from fleshly desires.”—1 PETER 2:11.
1, 2. Whom did Peter call “the ones chosen”? Why did he call them “temporary residents”?
ABOUT 30 years after Jesus returned to heaven, the apostle Peter wrote a letter to a group he called “temporary residents” who were “scattered about in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” He also called them “the ones chosen.” (1 Peter 1:1) Peter was writing to the anointed, who had been given “a new birth to a living hope” to be kings with Christ in the heavens. (Read 1 Peter 1:3, 4.) But why did he later call these chosen ones “aliens and temporary residents”? (1 Peter 2:11) And why should all of us be interested in this when only a small number of Witnesses throughout the world say they are anointed, or chosen ones?
2 It was appropriate to call the anointed ones in the first century “temporary residents.” The anointed will not live on earth forever. The apostle Paul, who was one of the anointed “little flock,” explained that the anointed are actually citizens of heaven. He said: “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; Philippians 3:20) This means that after the anointed die, they leave the earth, which is under Satan’s control, and receive immortal life in heaven. (Read Philippians 1:21-23.) They live on the earth for only a short time, so they are “temporary residents.”
3. What question about the “other sheep” should we ask?
3 What about the “other sheep”? (John 10:16) The Bible teaches that they have the hope to become permanent residents of the earth. They will live on it forever. But why can we say that they too are like temporary residents?
“ALL CREATION KEEPS ON GROANING”
4. What are people unable to stop by means of politics, science, or money?
4 As long as Jehovah allows Satan’s wicked system to exist, everyone, including Christians, will continue to suffer because 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.” There are people who would like to use politics, science, or money to improve mankind’s situation. But these people are unable to stop mankind’s suffering.
5. Since 1914, what have millions decided to do? Why?
5 Since 1914, millions have decided to become subjects of Jesus Christ, the one whom God has made King. These subjects of Jesus do not want to be part of Satan’s system. They refuse to support Satan’s world. Instead, they use their lives and what they have in support of God’s Kingdom.—Romans 14:7, 8.
6. Why can all of Jehovah’s Witnesses be called aliens, or temporary residents?
6 Jehovah’s Witnesses are good citizens in over 200 countries. But regardless of where they live, they are like aliens, or temporary residents. They never get involved with the politics or social problems of the countries where they live. Even now, they view themselves as citizens of the new world that God has promised. They are happy that they will be temporary residents in this imperfect world for only a little while longer.
7. How will servants of God become permanent residents? Where will they be permanent residents?
7 Soon Jesus Christ will destroy Satan’s wicked system. Christ’s perfect government will get rid of sin and suffering. It will also remove anyone who rebels against Jehovah’s sovereignty. Those who are loyal to God will then be able to become permanent residents of the Paradise on earth. (Read Revelation 21:1-5.) Creation will then have been completely set free from everything that causes suffering, and everyone will “have the glorious freedom of the children of God.”—Romans 8:21.
WHAT KIND OF CONDUCT MUST TRUE CHRISTIANS HAVE?
8, 9. What did Peter mean when he talked about “abstaining from fleshly desires”?
8 Peter explains how Christians should behave when he says: “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 Peter 2:11) He was saying this to anointed Christians, but Jesus’ other sheep too need to follow this counsel.
The “other sheep” will become permanent residents of the Paradise on earth
9 Some desires are not necessarily wrong as long as we fulfill those desires in the way the Creator wants us to fulfill them. Doing this makes life more enjoyable. For example, there are the normal desires to eat good food and to have something good to drink. We enjoy recreation and association with good friends. It is also natural and normal to have the desire for sexual pleasure with one’s marriage mate. (1 Corinthians 7:3-5) But Peter was clearly talking about “fleshly desires” that “carry on a conflict against the soul.” This means wrong fleshly desires. Some Bible translations call them “fleshly lusts” (King James Version) or “sinful desires” (New International Version). Jehovah has told us the way he wants us to live and fulfill our natural desires. We must not allow any human desire to harm our good relationship with God. If we fulfill our desires in the wrong way, this could result in our death.
We must not allow any human desire to harm our good relationship with God
10. What are some of the ways Satan tempts Christians to become a part of his world?
10 Satan wants us to forget that we are “temporary residents” in this system. He wants us to be materialistic, to be drawn to immorality, to want to be important, to try to be first at everything, and to be proud of our nation. But we need to recognize that all these desires are traps of Satan. If we are determined not to follow these wrong desires, we show clearly that we do not want to be a part of Satan’s wicked world. We prove that we are living in this world as “temporary residents.” What we really want is to be permanent residents in God’s righteous new world. And we work hard to reach that goal.
11, 12. How do some people view foreigners? What do some people think about Jehovah’s Witnesses?
11 Peter continues to explain what it means for Christians to be “temporary residents” 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.” Temporary residents are foreigners, or people who are living in a country that is not their own. Foreigners are sometimes criticized because they are different, and some people even view them as bad people. The way they speak, act, dress, or even look may be different from that of the other people living in the country. But their good conduct can make others realize that they are not bad people.
12 In the same way, true Christians may be different from many of their neighbors. For example, they may talk about different things or choose different entertainment. People often recognize them because of the way they dress. Because of this, some people might ‘speak against’ the Witnesses. But others may speak well of the Witnesses because of their fine conduct.
Others will know we are good people if we act in a wise and righteous way
13, 14. What does it mean that “wisdom is proved righteous by its works”? What are examples of this?
13 Our good behavior can help others to see that there is no reason to ‘speak against’ us. Jesus was the only man who was perfectly obedient to God. But people accused even him of doing bad things. Some said he ate too much, drank too much, and was close friends with sinners. But he showed by his fine conduct that he was not that kind of person. Jesus said: “Wisdom is proved righteous by its works.” (Matthew 11:19) That is true today too. For example, some people who live near Bethel in Selters, Germany, think that the way the Bethel family lives is strange. Yet, the mayor of Selters defended the Bethelites by saying: “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 As another example, Jehovah’s Witnesses living in Moscow, Russia, were accused of doing several bad things. Some said that the Witnesses destroyed families, encouraged people to kill themselves, and refused to accept medical help. But in June 2010, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, decided that the city of Moscow was wrong to interfere with the worship of Jehovah’s Witnesses there and that it did not have the right to stop them from having meetings. The European Court of Human Rights said that the courts in Russia did not prove that the Witnesses were guilty of wrong behavior. It said that these courts used Moscow’s strict laws in a way that was unfair to Jehovah’s Witnesses.
WE SHOULD BE IN SUBJECTION TO THE GOVERNMENTS
15. What Bible principle do all true Christians follow?
15 Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world do something else that Peter said Christians are required to do. He said that we must subject ourselves “to every human creation,” including kings and other governors. (1 Peter 2:13, 14) We are no part of the wicked world. But as Paul told us, we willingly obey government authorities “in their relative positions,” or whenever their laws do not conflict with God’s laws.—Read Romans 13:1, 5-7.
16, 17. (a) What proves that we do not want to rebel against governments? (b) What have some government leaders admitted?
16 Jehovah’s Witnesses live as “temporary residents” in the present system of things, but this is not because they want to oppose the government or to criticize other people. They understand that others have their own ideas about who should be in the government or about how to solve mankind’s problems. Some religious groups get involved in politics, but Jehovah’s Witnesses do not. They never try to make political leaders change the way they govern the people. Jehovah’s Witnesses have absolutely no desire to rebel against the government or to make other people want to rebel.
17 Peter said to “have honor for the king.” So Christians obey government leaders in order to show respect and honor for them. (1 Peter 2:17) Sometimes government leaders have admitted that there is no reason to think that Jehovah’s Witnesses are dangerous. For example, Steffen Reiche, who was a member of the government in the state of Brandenburg, Germany, and who was later part of the German parliament, said that Jehovah’s Witnesses had fine conduct during the time they were persecuted by the Nazis. The Witnesses did not change their beliefs even when persecuted, and they treated their fellow prisoners kindly. He said that these qualities were very important for a country such as Germany, especially since some people are becoming more and more unkind toward those from other countries or those who have different political opinions and beliefs.
WE SHOULD SHOW LOVE FOR THE BROTHERS
18. (a) Why is it natural for us to love all the brothers and sisters? (b) What have some people said about Jehovah’s Witnesses?
18 The apostle Peter wrote: “Have love for the whole association of brothers, be in fear of God.” (1 Peter 2:17) Jehovah’s Witnesses fear God, that is, they have a fear of displeasing him. This respect for God makes them want to do his will. They are happy to be part of a worldwide group of brothers and sisters who all serve Jehovah together. They love “the whole association of brothers.” It is rare for people in the world today to love others. That is why those who are not Witnesses are sometimes surprised to see the love we have for one another. For example, a tour guide who was working with an American travel company was amazed to see the affection among our brothers at an international convention in Germany in 2009. The Witnesses in Germany showed love for their foreign brothers and helped them during their visit. The guide said enthusiastically that she had never seen a group like Jehovah’s Witnesses. Have you ever heard people talking this way after they watched a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses at a convention?
Respect for God makes us want to do his will
19. What should we be determined to do? Why?
19 As we have learned, Jehovah’s Witnesses show in many ways that they truly live as “temporary residents” in Satan’s system of things. They happily do this and are determined to remain “temporary residents.” They have good reasons to have strong hope that they will soon be permanent residents of the righteous new world that God is making. Are you looking forward to that new world?