Human beings like to be settled. Even travelling communities want to meet up with like-minded people so that they can preserve a sense of identity, and feel that they 'belong'. Naturally we are drawn to those who are like ourselves; but we also become like the people we associate with. Father God sees all the people we meet; who we want to be like, and who is influencing us - more than we might choose. He has called us to a holy life, and so He watches to see how we deal with the worldly people we live amongst. One day, His observation will be the basis of His assessment of our lives.
Peter is writing to Christians who have been physically scattered by fear of persecution. Yet they still have to earn a living in communities which might be hostile to Jesus. The easiest thing would be for them to 'settle down' and become like everybody else around. So this verse is an instruction to Christians everywhere about how we should see ourselves; not as migrants acclimatising to a new culture, but as aliens, foreigners and travellers. This world is not 'home' for the Christian, we are only temporary residents. We have a heavenly 'passport' when, through faith in Jesus, we become children of God and citizens of heaven. And so our time on earth is temporary, but it is an important preparation for our eternity with Christ.
Our work on earth is not permanent either. Even the largest business empire will mean nothing when Jesus returns. That is not to say that our work is unimportant, but God will judge how much we saw it as a way of serving Him, rather then ourselves. Those who invest their energies in earthly things will get earth's reward: those who invest their life in heaven's kingdom, will receive Christ's reward. To be 'at home' with a sinful world is to be an alien to heaven; but true Christians must hold lightly onto this world (with its riches, power and pleasures) because they know that their citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20-21).
© Dr Paul Adams