We have been exploring the last few weeks how Lent and the Gospel makes us free. But this week we add something to it. This week we see that the freedom we find in Lent is really for the redemption of the entire world.
My favorite articulation of this is found in 1 Peter 2. I recommend reading it here. But these are the highlights:
As we come to Christ and make the cross our cornerstone, God is making us into something.
We are becoming living stones in a living temple, we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. We have a new identity as God’s possession and people.
Each of these metaphors has deep significance, but we often miss what they mean because of the way these metaphors are used in our world. Most of the time when we hear Christians spoken of as God’s possession or chosen people, it means we are drawing a line in the sand.
And there is them.
We are chosen and the possession of God. They are not. These words are used to distinguish between the good and the bad, the saved and the lost, the inside and the outside, the victors and the losers.
But is that really what we mean here? Is this how God sees the world? Is the lost/saved distinction all God cares about? Should it be all we care about?
Let’s look closer at the other metaphors to help us out: temple, priesthood, holy nation.
Temples and priests existed (in all ancient civilization) to mediate between the people and God. They were the go-between. Now it would be easy to take this idea and fit it in with the us vs. them idea. If you want to get to God, you have to come through us. The only way to get tot God is to do it our way and be on our side of the line.
But the holy nation part is where this breaks down. Israel was considered a holy nation not because you had to go through them to get to God, but because they were representatives of what God is like.
You go to a temple or a priest to experience God. Israel had a unique experience of God, and there were all these nations around them without the same experience. So Israel existed to mediate. In other words, since the nations around them would not have the same experience of God as Israel, Israel was to be the place “they” experienced God.
Israel didn’t do a great job. But this was the idea, and it now gets carried over to Christians.
The point of being a living temple, a royal priesthood, and a chosen, holy nation is not that people can only get to God through us. It is that we represent God. People get to know God by getting to know us. People who would normally not seek an experience with Jesus, can encounter Jesus in our lives.
We don’t have the market cornered on God and Truth (even if many people assume that’s what it means to be a Christian). We are not the Way or the Truth or the Life. What being a chosen people means is responsibility. We are supposed to help people see what God is like.
We have gotten all out of whack with what it means to be the chosen possession of God. It does not mean that we have some secret password or that we are somehow more loved and appreciated by God. It means we have the responsibility of showing what God is actually like.
It is a big task. And it explains why so many people have a difficult time with Christianity. “If that is what God is like, no thank you.”
Again, it goes back to how we see God. If we see God as a behaviorist or a moralist or a biblicist, then that is probably what we will represent.
But if we see a God who loves everyone in spite of all the reasons they should be unlovable, that should change how we live and act and are in the world.
It is a pretty heavy responsibility which requires us to constantly examine how we live. Yet most Christians have used these ideas to draw the lines in the sand of how we are better than they. Rather than being a responsibility to take seriously in our own lives, families, communities, and churches, we use “chosen-ness” to manipulate and judge others into being just like us.
This completely misses the point.
We need to recapture and reclaim what it means to be a chosen people. We need to learn to stop seeing ourselves as the protectors and defenders of truth, but begin to see our lives as small places where people can encounter the loving, gracious, and merciful God revealed in Jesus on the cross.