Who are we? I Peter 2:9 says that we “. . . are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” We are a people whose race is determined not by physical characteristics or ancestry, but by the call of God on our lives. As priests, we open the way for others to discover and to be embraced by the one who has brought us into the light. We are a set-apart people or nation defined not by geographic boundaries, but by the love we demonstrate to others.
In a world that is divided by race, gender, social and economic status, religion, and a host of other ways, what is significant about who we are? If we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, what difference does that make in our lives? It can make a huge difference. If we embrace who we are, then every day becomes an opportunity for us to proclaim the mighty acts of the one who called us out of darkness. We proclaim those deeds sometimes by telling the story of who Jesus was and what he did, but always by embodying his thoughts, his values and his actions in our lives.
As a “. . . chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people. . .” we are set apart — different from that which surrounds us and sometimes overwhelms us. We, the church, find ourselves living in a nation and in a world that often bears little resemblance to the kingdom of God. Nevertheless, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We live to proclaim another way. In living as God has called us, we redeem this world so that politically, socially, spiritually, economically, and morally it looks and feels more like the kingdom of the one who sent out the twelve saying “…as you go, proclaim the good news, ‘the kingdom of heaven has come near.’” That is the mark toward which we ought to aim our lives, that those whom we encounter would experience the wonder of God’s grace, the depth of God’s mercy and the nearness of heaven from our actions and our words.
As the church, we are not always such a people. In fact, in some ways the church has become an impediment to grace, mercy and the nearness of heaven for some people. Bad experiences, judgmental words and “holier than thou” attitudes have left them cut off from God and convinced that there is no good reason to do anything to remedy the situation. They conclude confidently that if God is anything like those who so freely speak for him, then grace and mercy are not to be found.
Yet, we know that such is not the case. We know God is gracious and that God’s mercy is deep and wide. God has freely given that grace to us. We know that God loves us. So, it is all the more imperative for us to be the race, the priesthood, the nation, and the people that God has called us to be. In darkness, we did not know God. We did not know God’s love for us. In knowing God and sharing God’s love and grace with others, we move further into that marvelous light. In denying others God’s mercy, failing to share God’s love with others, we not only push them back into the darkness, but we turn our own lives back toward the darkness as well.
Who are we? We are the church, the body of Christ, living according to his call on our lives, to his teachings in our minds, and to his love in our hearts, so that the darkness of this world might be overcome by his marvelous light.