A People Set Apart
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.
Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
1 Peter 2: 9-17 (NKJV)
A People Set Apart
Who are we? We once were not a people but are now the people of God. Christians are not isolated separated individuals. We are part of something greater than ourselves: we are God’s special people; we are a holy nation. In the past, we were not a people. We were like lost sheep each seeking our own good, each following the current demagogue who promised to give us what we want. If we seek the world’s advise, seek after your own self-fulfillment, you will get the very opposite. You will not be fulfilled but alienated from each other: frustrated, lonely and unhappy.
The sad and pathetic fact is that Christians have been following the advice of the world! We have treated our faith as one of the run of the mill self help programs: using God to make us rich, healthy and happy. We act as if the focus of our faith is about me and not God. This is not what Christianity is about. We are not here to be served but to sacrifice ourselves to serve others. Christ is our great example and it is His example we are to follow.
What has been the result? Christians are divided. We are frustrated, lonely and unhappy. We are like lost sheep. We know something is wrong but we don’t know what to do. The Church has fragmented into so many denominations that each has their own agenda and advice. We feel like a stranger in a crowd straining to listen but we cannot make anything out over the murmur of all those voices. This is not how it was supposed to be. Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10 NKJV) We have lost our way because we do not think of ourselves as part of a greater whole, but we think of ourselves as a separate unrelated individual. This is not what the Scriptures teach us.
How can we be an example to the lost if we act as if we are lost? We must return to the scripture. We were once lost but now we are found. We are God’s special people: His holy nation. Holy here does not mean that we are morally perfect (This is obviously not true). Holy means we have been set apart from the world for God’s special purpose. What sets us apart? We have obtained mercy! God has forgiven us our sins inspite of the fact that we are obviously immoral people. We are special not because anything we have done but because of what Christ has done for us. Christ has gathered us together for a special purpose. What have we been called to do? We have been called out the darkness, to proclaim the praises of God. Our motivation is thanksgiving. We who did not deserve mercy have obtained mercy. How can we show our gratitude to God for this? By going out to the world and doing likewise.
In the world but not of the world.
We have been called out the darkness of the world to testify to the light of Christ. We may be pilgrims and sojourners here but we still must live and participate among the worldly. Peter begs us to abstain from fleshly lusts. (he needn’t beg us if this were an easy thing to do). Why? For two reason. First, these lusts will war against our souls. We will be participating in the very things Christ freed us from. Second, because we need to be an example to those around us. Interestingly, Peter does not mentions if non-believers speak evil against us but when they do. No matter what we do, worldly people will speak against us. Peter wants to make sure that when this happens we are falsely accused. What credit do we get if the charges against us are true?
Rather, Peter encourages us to be model citizens. We should be obedient to all authorities above us. All people whether Christian or non-Christian live within a society governed by laws. Laws punish the evildoers and reward the just. Given the nature of God’s creation, laws throughout time have basically followed God’s laws. If a nation is going to last they must observe basic justice which condemns lying, stealing and murder. Most societies throughout history have supported the family by condemning adultery and by teaching us to honor our parents. Our nation is now embarked on the foolhardy experiment of how long a society can last if it undermines its families. One generation into this experiment, we know how it will end, we just don’t know how long it will take to completely destroy our country.
As long as the laws of our nation remain just, we remain bound to them and should acquit ourselves better than our non-Christian neighbors. We are to honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. Christians are not to use our liberty to do whatever we want to do. We are not to pursue our own life, liberty and happiness. We are to be bondservants to others.
But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29 NKJV)