Week of July 26

Burn It Down or Build It Up?

Read: 2 Kings 20; Isaiah 38, 39; Psalm 75; 1 Peter 2

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
1 Peter 2:9-10, ESV


Recall the words of our Lord, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18). Peter echoes Christ’s claim and states that rejection by the world should not deter us from remaining steadfastly committed to the Lord. Why? God has named Christ the “chief cornerstone” (2:6). While we may not fully comprehend the value of this principle, we will learn its importance for our lives. Regardless, we must not cut him out of any spiritual house that we are building, or it will ultimately collapse!

A Biblical Lens

The broader paragraph in this section of Peter’s letter includes his use of three metaphors for the church: living body, a building, and, in our focal passage, a select nation (2:4-10; cf. HCBC). Peter will build upon a key idea in this section; namely, that Christians are an elite community that is assured of God’s ultimate protection. If you will look ahead to verses 13-20, then you will see why he would take this encouraging approach. Christological emphasis in this section provides us with key reassurance (cf. Psalm 34:5; 118:22; See 1 Peter 2:21-25). The recipients of the letter needed to internalize this encouragement (cf. Isaiah 28:16). Our assurance that the “building” will hold up against all external assault is based upon the fact that Christ is the “living stone.” Got it? Good! Let’s explore some implications for our lives today.

The Old Testament context in Isaiah was the period when Assyria was threatening to invade Israel, following an alliance with Egypt. Peter’s point of application to Christians is this: True security lies not in political or military power, but in placing one’s confidence in Christ! This was a good reminder in Rome and is a good reminder ahead of our fall elections. To hear some Christians, one would think that the entire election will be a lose-lose proposition regardless which party claims the victory. Hmm. The “stone,” which Christians interpreted to be “Messiah” and the “Christ,” reigns over the end-time community (the Church). It will never be defeated (2:7, “put to shame”)! The “win” has already occurred.

The true honor resides with God’s chosen people (cf. 2:9). Peter uses a strong expression here (“you” is emphasized). They above all else are esteemed (cf. 1:1, the true Israel is the Church! BNTC). Peter applies to the Church, which he views as a corporate whole, all of the honorific titles that had formerly been assigned to Israel (cf. Exodus 19:6; Isaiah 43:20). The invitation is clear. Trust Christ and you will have the Holy God as your king, and you will, as his priests, have an intimate relationship with him. Therefore, the Church, not Rome in that era, nor any other nation on earth today, is God’s chosen race (2:9).

The victory lies in changing our perspective about our spiritual house and not in obsessing over who might occupy the White House. We should never measure our intrinsic worth on something as temporal as an election. Peter refers to Hosea 1:9 when he claims that these believers were formerly “not a people.” That Old Testament passage referred to God’s rejection of Israel with the aim that He would ultimately reclaim his people. The apostle uses that text to reassure these converts that they were formerly not God’s people but now they have become so through conversion. They, and we, are the full recipients of God’s mercy (2:10; BNTC). So, what are we to do with this new status? I am glad you asked!

A Moral Pathway

I awoke early this morning and scanned the news headlines as I do virtually every day. I read where an activist group had rioted in Seattle and firebombed a police precinct. Elsewhere, a spokesman for the movement threatened to “burn down this system and replace it” in the US, if their demands are not met. The man buttressed his argument for such violence by claiming that it had led to some changes in recent weeks. The spokesman then clarified that, by burning down the system, he could be speaking figuratively; however, this moral situation holds broad implications for human life and family and community safety.

Jesus Christ did not come stating that his followers were to burn down the system; instead they were to build His church! He issued a radically different mantra for His disciples—spread peace (Matthew 5:9). Peter calls the church in Asia Minor to a radically different response. Rather than engage in political extremism or community rioting to secure their demands, their transformed lives and lifestyles were to incite change within their culture (2:11-12). They would ultimately suffer further rejection by the world, but they were assured of their place in God’s kingdom beneath the Lordship of Christ. Burn it down? Hardly. Build it up. Indeed.

For Your Journaling

1. You likely felt a strong visceral reaction to the Seattle protests that I reported earlier. Take a moment to write down a thought or two about how you might become a Christian peacemaker in that conflict.

2. You possibly have been ridiculed and rejected at home, school, or work, at some time, for your commitment to Christ. Write a sentence or two of thanksgiving for your secured position in God’s kingdom. Use portions of chapter 2 in your statement of gratitude.

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock