Sunday, January 3, 2010

1 Peter 2:9 Identity

Our lives speak. In the words of Maximus in Gladiator (2000), “What we do echoes in eternity.”

This is no real surprise to any of us if we reflect over it. When anyone’s eulogy is given at their funeral we’ll always tend to expect to hear the best. The norms and the worst are passed over, yet they’re no less true.

And when all is said and done we cannot get away from how our lives are defined. Our identities are firmly fixed in the moment. Not unlike organisational culture, identity typically changes little, and that, over time. Anyone bent on change knows this and is often frustrated by this very fact. This might be very apt at New Year in context of resolutions!

When a person is saved into the kingdom of God, however, the Holy Spirit—if given a fullish reign—will most certainly transform the person through their thinking. And this is mostly manufactured via a genuinely and continually repentant heart and a fervent drawing-near to God. We see this in converts. We’ve known it in ourselves, more to the point.

Action has it.

It was Saint Francis of Assisi who proclaimed in words to the effect, ‘Preach the Word of God, and if necessary, use words!’ And we know the intent here. Actions speak louder than words. Always. Words will often betray the sense of true meaning. Our minds, most of the time, cannot cogitate the form of significant things and then express them in words. Or if they do, it can’t be reproduced at will.

Love is a verb, not eloquent speech; though it might be backed up, supported and affirmed in speech. And all virtue belongs to love, for God is love. So, everything virtuous is enacted. It’s visible, based in observable behaviour. People see what is good. Good is never bad.

Most Christians will be familiar with the discourse of 1 Peter 2:9. It is often dragged out and preached as a stand-alone imperative:

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people [a people for his possession], in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (NRSV)

The Christian is not saved simply for their own blessing. The fruit that emanates from their life is designed to attract others because it is set apart, consecrated to God, and it reeks love and selflessness. People with such resonantly powerful characters of moral virtue command the respect and allure of those naturally searching for light, having not yet really known God.

And these are the ones we’re seeking; the ones who don’t think God is a cosmic joke.

Our all-merciful God has given us fresh Spiritual life. We who’re saved know the massive difference the Spirit makes to, in and for us. We could not therefore help wanting to proclaim this wonderful news. Well that is the theory.

Can a powerful transformation of character toward virtue—drawn from coming to the Living Stone—define to seekers any better ‘the mighty acts of him who called’ us? Peter, like Paul and the other writers and characters of New Testament times, is forever reminding us that it’s a moral transformation, in us, that Jesus’ Spirit is about. It is much less about religious and theological information to stun the naïve; the Pharisaic form of old which never, unfortunately, seems dead.

Our identity conforms our responses. Our motives and actions are known much more than our words. Truly being set apart in the New Covenant way means getting our deeds right. It is also making amends when we get them wrong.

When we ‘rid [ourselves]… of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander,’ in recognition of 1 Peter 2:1, God will do the rest of his own volition.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

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