As we have studied scripture before, I have often reminded of the importance of the simple words such as "and" or "but". Today's passage has one of those "buts" in it - the thing which has been proposed or said ahead of this simple little word makes a huge difference. So, we cannot skip over the simple words if we are to get the entirety of the meat from the passage. To set the stage, we see Peter writing this letter to believers - it wasn't written to those who had no faith in Christ, but rather those who had embraced the finished work of Christ on their behalf. As he begins the letter, he challenges believers to begin to live a life of holiness - set apart from their former ways of doing things (especially as it applies to their past religious performance). There will be tough times - of this he assures us - BUT these tough times don't need to destroy or defeat us - we should allow them to define us. As the chosen ones of God, we are designed for a specific work - to be his instruments and his voice to a hurting people.
But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted. (I Peter 2:9-10)
The former way of living is behind - the new is set before us. As such, Peter calls our attention to several important facts we need to keep in mind as we make choices about how it is we live each day. First, we need to recognize our high calling. Now, if you were in school and the teacher called on you to come to the front of the class to share your "show and tell" item - something special you brought to school that day to share with the class - you would feel pretty special. You might feel like at that very moment you were the center of attention - all eyes directed toward you and interest high in anticipation of what you might share. Our high calling in Christ is not really that we are the center of attention, but this calling draws attention to Christ as the author and finisher of a great work - a work he has begun in each of us and chooses to highlight in each of our lives. This work is evidence of his grace, love, and intense desire to see each of us drawn into the nearness of relationship he desires with each of his children.
We are chosen to be a holy people. As such, we exemplify the finished work of Christ in our lives. What does being "holy" entail? Simply put, it means that we are "set apart" from the old way of doing business in our lives. Choices are made differently, actions reflect a new "person" in charge of our lives. We make out "holiness" to be something like unto the life of being a priest - being pulled away into the monastery, living without some of the earthly pleasures others enjoy, taking a vow of poverty, etc. Now don't get me wrong - if Jesus has asked this of you, then follow that path - but few are called to live this type of life. In fact, most of us are asked to live right where we are as "holy" people - serving God in the midst of the regular stuff of life.
This high calling is simply put as "telling others" - being an example of the life change Christ brings into our lives. There is an old adage which states "more is caught than taught". In other words, our lives are to "tell the story" of God's ability to take a life of religious performance and transition it into a life of grace-filled holiness. As more and more of our life becomes filled with God's grace, it bubbles forth into a lively testimony of what God does in the lives of those who serve him. I know my old way of living had a "testimony" which did not honor God - but I was quite "religious". I attended church weekly, sometimes more frequently. I spoke the language of "religion", but my words did very little to describe the real condition of my heart. Trust me -my actions often betrayed my words!
God's action in our lives brings a transformation - all Peter is reminding us to do is allow this transformation to be so evident that it sparks the interest of others to want what we have in our lives. It is by a living testimony that many will follow Jesus - may ours be that testimony! Just hoping!