By Rev. Lungawiruol Khawbung
But 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. Once 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. Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live 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. (I Peter 2:9-12)
Animal does not ask question about their existence, probably they never know who they are? Maybe, they do not really care about their life because they have instinct but not the spiritual instinct as we human being do have. They don’t even have ethics or conscience or good or bad moral behavior. They don’t even have or learn etiquettes. But it is also a question to ask if many people really take time to think who we are? If we never think about who we are or the purpose of our existence, we are not more than animals. In that case we live like an animal…Do we ask question about our existence or about our identity? People committed suicide, they kill, commit all kinds of crimes and they hurt or spoil their lives when they do not understand who they are. How often do you ask yourselves the question, who am I? What am I here for? Peter gave the answer for all these questions… what are the answers …
- Who are we? What is our identity?
- We are a chosen people– Here we find tremendous word of encouragement, a people greatly prized, and a people to be saved, a people for God’s possession. “A Chosen people” (V.9) this is a corporate identity, the titles formerly given to the whole Jews i.e. to all the Israelites without exception, all who were in the covenant of God by circumcision, whether they were holy persons or not, the Jews are the people of God. In the same manner Christians who believe in Christ, or have a personal experience of Christ, who received baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit are God’s chosen people. The implication is individual and not racial, not even color. What gives us our identity is the fact that we are chosen people. Christian is not a white or black or yellow race. We are a chosen people. The Israelites were a chosen or elected group, to be a special people unto the Lord their God. They were chosen above all people that were upon the face of the earth, Deut 7:6.
6 For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.
7 The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. NIV (from Adam Clarke’s Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1996 by Biblesoft)
Now we are a chosen people in Christ, not on the basis of our color, not on the basis of our race, not on the basis of our education, but on the basis of divine decision. Besides;
- We are a royal priest – The Israelites were also a royal priest and a royal priesthood, or what Moses calls a kingdom of priests, Ex 19:6. For all were called to sacrifice to God; and he is represented to be the King of that people, and Father of those of whom he was king; therefore they were all royal.
In and through the blood of Christ we have access to God. We are not a priest by our biological birth or we do not inherit our priestly office from our parents. But we are given through the blood of Jesus Christ. We are not only a chosen race or a priest but also a nation belonging to God. But….
- We are a holy nation –The Israelites were a holy nation, Ex 19:6; for they were separated from all the people of the earth, that they might worship the one only true God, and abstain from the abominations that were in the pagan world.
We as Christians are separated from the world by the blood of Christ to be a holy nation for God. We are in the world, and we all have our nationality; I am an Indian, you have your own nationality, but this is temporary. We do have a different nationality here on earth. But our eternal nationality is with our loving Father and Creator. That makes us a different people, also uniting us in one body of Christ, because …
- We belong to God – We are God’s possession. We are not of our own; we are already bought with a price. That mean the Almighty God is in charge over us. We need humble submission under His divine rules. It does not mean that we don’t have a choice to choose for Him or against Him. It also does not mean that we are slaves, without personality or responsibilities. We are children of God. Legal inheritors in His Kingdom. The Israelites were also called a peculiar (special) people, a purchased people; a private property, belonging to God Almighty, Deut 7:6. No one have any right in them, but they are under obligation to God alone. All these things the apostle applies to the Christians, to whom indeed they belong, in their spirit and essence, in such a way as they could not belong to the Hebrews of old.
But are we always like that?
- Do we have a history? What was our identity?
(Hos. 2:23). “I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’ I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.” NIV.
- We were not a people of God – This is a quotation from Hos 1:9-10; 2:23, where the calling of the Gentiles, by the preaching of the Gospel, is foretold. From this it is evident, that the people to whom the apostle now addresses himself had been Gentiles, covered with ignorance and superstition. And now they had obtained mercy by the preaching of the Gospel of Christ. This shows that we were not always a people of God. But we have obtained Mercy from God because of Christ sacrificial work on the cross. There was a time that …
- We do not receive mercy – Now without anything to claim from our part, nor anything that we merit to gain mercy from God. We obtain mercy from God only because God chose to love us and give us His Mercy. For which reason we have our present identity, a corporate identify with individual implication. Then …
- What is our present?
- We are the people of God – we are God’s chosen children; we do not belong to this world. But we are here to show and witness the God we belief.
- We receive mercy – we are special people of God, we do not earn mercy, but God chose to offer His mercy to us.
- We are aliens and strangers in the world – we are not belonging to this world. Our identity is changed. We are all foreigners here, not just me, all of us …
- How do we get this identity? How does it happen?
- God calls us out of the darkness – God took the initiative by calling us out of our spiritual darkness. He opened our spiritual eyes so that we will be able to see Him. And then …
What does it mean to be in darkness? Before my ancestor receive the Christian faith, they worship evil spirit. Not because they like it, but because they fear it. They do not know God and heaven, but they do have some belief in the city of death (may be like paradise in our understanding). They fought and kill people or animal so that their souls will be accompanied to the city of death.
Now we have the good news. No more animal sacrifices to appease with the evil spirit in order to have a better place after death, but God himself calls us out from darkness. And also calls us into his wonderful light. What a blessing….
- God calls us into His wonderful light – once God open our spiritual eyes, we are able to see His wonderful light, the light of our salvation. We see the God we never could see, and hear His voice which we could never know and understand before. We became different. But do we think God will do all of these without a reason or a purpose? There must be a reason; therefore, we must ask ourselves ….
- What are we here for? Do we have a purpose?
To declare the praises of God who calls us out from darkness into His wonderful light – this is the area where we need our join efforts. We have the same garden to work; a worldwide garden, with many challenges. We are called to declare the praises of God in different ways and means. Just as we are one chosen people, we do have one common mission. This is the reason why we need to join together. That’s the reason why we have communion. Why support fellow Christians? why pray for the churches around the globe? why send missionaries and so on. We must preach and share the gospel and live out our faith. So then ….
- How are we going to declare His praises?
- We are urged to abstain from sinful desires, which wars against our souls – we have a lot of things in our mind, it can be good as well as bad. What becomes our priority is important here. Is our priority directed by our sinful desire? Or by God?
- To live good lives (morally) among the pagans – do we have the attitude to live our lives according to the gospel so that others will see the God we serve.
- Why live a good life among pagans – so that they will glorify God on the day He visits us –
Christian life is not an easy assignment. It is not something that we could finish at one go. It is not like having annual exam. It is every day business with God and our fellow being or creations. Every day is a matter of declaring God’s praise. On the other hand, declaring God’s praise every day is a very honorable devotion. It is very joyous; it is never boring. It is something that you do every day but never boring. For those who declare God’s praise always find new joy in their lives.
Conclusion: Today I want to call you my fellow gardeners, my brothers and sisters; may I invite my fellow gardeners to see what is needed in our garden, where and which corners do we have to put our hands and resources. What we do here in Asia and what we do in Europe and Africa is the same. We all share the task and also the result. Because it is about God’s Kingdom, it is about the Kingdom of God and His people. May we be reminded of our identity and also our mission to the world? Amen.