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"Chief characteristic of the pilgrim is hope"

From A Pilgrim's Manual: Commentary on 1 Peter, by Herman Hanko, pages xx-xxi.


We have in our Western culture forgotten to be pilgrims and strangers because we have become so attracted to this world and to the things of this world that we have lost sight of the world to come. We lay up treasures on earth rather than treasures in heaven, something against which the Lord specifically warned in Matthew 6:18-20. It is true that where our treasures are, there are also our hearts.

We have for the most part found life in the world to be very comfortable, so much so that we prefer not to leave it. We look carefully after our bank accounts, pension plans, new cars, houses, beautiful clothing, and vacation toys. Life is full of pleasure, and we have the means to make it so. We have insurance on our cars, health, possessions, and houses. We are covered for all possible calamities. We revel in our wealth, unaware of or not frightened by Paul’s earnest warning of the snares of riches (1 Tim. 6:6-11). If we are pilgrims at all, the load of the things of this world is a burden too heavy to carry, if we desire to pursue our journey toward our heavenly home.

Peter does not deal much in his letter with the relation between the Christian pilgrim and the things of this earth. In a sense Peter does not have to remind the pilgrim of the proper use of this world’s gifts. The startling truth is that if we walk as pilgrims ought to walk, we will be persecuted; and our freedom from persecution is frequently a testimony to our worldliness and materialism. Peter assumes that persecution belongs to the life of a pilgrim who is still on his journey. Again and again he returns to the subject of persecution in order to remind us that persecution is the lot of a pilgrim.

Because he is the object of persecution, the chief characteristic of the pilgrim is hope. His heart is set not on the things of this earth, but upon his heavenly and eternal inheritance. Hope pulls the Christian pilgrim toward the future with a certain implied dissatisfaction with life as it is, and with an impatience for the journey to be over. So much is hope dominant in the epistle that Peter has rightly been called “the apostle of hope.”

To take seriously Peter’s letter is to examine our lives in this world and to turn in repentance to God, seeking forgiveness for wandering in the dark forests of our present culture, and to implore him who controls all history that he will return us to the path that is made bright by the light that shines from our eternal destination. This may require persecution, if we are to be saved.

All in all, Peter answers the questions of life for us. Let us take his pilgrim’s manual, inspired by the Holy Spirit sent from Christ, put it in our pockets as we pursue our journey, and read it at every opportunity. It shows the way.


A Pilgrim's Manual Commentary on 1 Peter,

by Herman Hanko

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