Summary: As Christians we are chosen by God to join others in a church community where we find belonging, significance, love, and where we serve one another. A church is not about catering to our own individual needs and wants.
The Special WE
September 6, 2009 1 Pet 2:9-12
We are special. That is a true statement, and an important one. We are special – we, the people of God called Laurier Heights Baptist Church are special. As true as the statement is, it is problematic. We hear “special”, and think “superior”: if we are special then that must mean we are better than others somehow, there must be something about us that makes us great in comparison to the other churches around. That thought, that “special” somehow means “superior”, reveals a wrong way we think about what “the church” actually is. We tend to see church as an organization which we voluntarily choose to be a part of, which exists to do certain things, chief among them being to meet our individual needs of a spiritual nature. “Church” becomes kind of like a store where we go to get our “spiritual stuff” taken care of, and so then we choose the “store” that we like best, and we go to get our needs met. But that “store” idea of church is completely wrong – that is not what “church” is. Let’s look again at 1 Peter, which we’ve been working through this summer, for a better description.
9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
11Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
The Problem With “You”:
Right off the bat, we have a problem. Peter writes, “but you”, and in English we don’t have a different word for “you” singular and “you” plural. Unless you are from Texas, and like to say, “y’all”. This is a critical problem, because we automatically assume “you” means “me”, not “you” means “us”. We hear Peter and we assume, “I am chosen, I am royal, I am holy, I belong to God…”. Maybe I am special… and there is a subtle programming of our faith into an individual experience. It becomes about me – where I fit, what I get out of it, what I experience, what I need. And this feeds right into our expectation of church as a place for me and my needs, that store-type idea where I become a consumer of religious goods and services. This becomes even more harmful when the “me” focus turns negative, and we start thinking/feeling things like maybe I’m not special, maybe I don’t fit in, my needs aren’t being met. The root of the problem is still the same, however – we think it is about “me”.
I think Peter would be shocked, because his “you” is very clearly the plural “you all”. His description that follows is not about individual Christians, but about who we are together. So we need to put this into our own voice, and read verse 9 like this: “WE are a chosen people, WE are a royal priesthood, WE are a holy nation, WE are a people belonging to God”. And that, my friends, is what makes us special.
The first of Peter’s descriptions of who we are is a “chosen people”. I want to pause here for a bit, because this is a critical theme of the entire book of 1 Peter, it is actually one of Peter’s favorite words in the letter. We saw it in the very first verse of the letter, “To God’s elect” (same Greek word), repeated in vs. 2. “who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” (same Greek word), applied to Jesus in 2:4, 6; “4As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him… See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone”. Now the link is made between Jesus and us (plural): we are “a chosen people”. This link from Jesus to us is deliberate and foundational, listen to this: “The supremely important point here is that the basic OT promises and predicates, which originally applied to the people of Israel, are now transferred to the universal Christian community… the transfer is wholly grounded upon, and executed by Christ.” (TDNT 4:190).
My point is that this defines our community. We, the people of God at Laurier, are, because of Jesus, chosen by God to be His people, and thus we inherit all the promises, blessings, and responsibilities that God has from the beginning of time given to His people. Now, again, this is not an individual thing, but rather a community thing. This is who “we” are, and this makes us special.