“But you are a chosen people . . . 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.”
As you may remember from last week, the purpose of the Apostle Peter’s letter was to encourage those followers of Jesus in the northern part of Asia Minor to remain steadfast in their faith and witness in the face of persecution and suffering. Typically the Roman government was tolerant of the Jewish religion. As long as the Jewish religion remain fairly docile and didn’t create any waves, the Jews were allowed to practice their religion. This is important to understand.
Christianity grew out of the Jewish religion, after all, Jesus was a Jew. The model of the first disciples was to bring the message of Jesus to the Jews in the synagogues since Jesus saw his ministry and message of the fulfilment of God’s kingdom. Thus it was that many of the followers were Jews. In the beginning this sect within the Jewish religion was tolerable for both the Jews and the Roman government. The Romans basically ignored them as they saw the new movement as nothing more than the Jewish religion. Unfortunately, not all the Jews were too thrilled with the movement. This movement was based on a person and his teachings that were a burr in the Roman government’s and the leadership of the Jewish religion’s backside. It’s what got Jesus killed . . . he stepped outside of the acceptable boundaries. Those hard line Jews began to complain . . . they did not want this new movement within their places of worship or within their religion. These Jesus followers were upsetting the cart. They wanted them out.
Suddenly, these people were seemed to be like everyone else in the Jewish religion . . . pretty much oblivious the Roman government . . . were people of interest. Being pushed out by the Jewish religion, they were no longer protected . . . they were on their own. Now they were getting attention even though it was not the sort of attention they wanted . . . persecution from their religion and the government. It was enough to make the followers want to return to that time when they were “nobody”.
I believe that the most basic human need is to be acknowledged and wanted. From the day that we are born, that basic need is there. Countless studies have been conducted about this need. Studies that show the effects of being ignored . . . of not being allowed to come into relationship with another. Decades ago there was a study conducted on the babies in Romanian orphanages where it was observed that those babies that we held did so much better than those that were not. Studies in education . . . in particular, classrooms, show that those teachers that take the time to acknowledge their student--develop a relationship with them--do better than the classrooms of those teachers that do not. What the research shows it that with acknowledgement, relationship, and being wanted . . . people thrive.
Everybody wants to be somebody . . . by that, I mean, everybody wants to be acknowledged and wanted.
In Peter’s message this morning, he explains that through Jesus everyone has the opportunity to enter into that relationship in which they are desired, acknowledged and wanted . . . desired, acknowledged, and wanted by none other than God. That they are not only acknowledged, but that they are chosen . . . chosen by God. God, through Jesus, lets them know that God desires a relationship . . . an intimate, personal relationship between the Holy and that which the Holy has created. Where they once seemed to be nobodies, now they were somebodies . . . they were God’s.
Isn’t that what everybody wants?
Of course it is. Jesus shows us the way.
But, no relationship is a one-way street. Relationships are tricky business. As each acknowledges the other . . . as each lets the other know that they are wanted . . . there also comes some expectations with the relationship. Peter reminds the followers of Jesus of these expectations. “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.”
Through this acknowledgement and reception of the relationship, there comes some expectations. The greatest of these is being and living as who God created you to be . . . to let yourself and your relationship with God shine forth in all that you are, do, and say, It is to follow the call of God in your life . . . just as Jesus demonstrated in his life and ministry. And, it is to share this opportunity with others. And, lastly, as implied by Peter, we are to do this because if God wants us, God wants everybody. God wants all of God’s children returned to the family.
God wants us to share what we have found in God as shown to us through Jesus.
As I stated earlier, relationships are not easy . . . they come with expectations. To move from “nobody” to “somebody” is to step out of the shadows and into the light . . . and, people are going to notice. Some will notice and react with positivity, wanting to know all about the change; while others will react negatively, and only want to destroy the new found confidence and relationship we have with God. That is the risk that comes with any relationship . . . especially stepping into that relationship with God through Jesus. Not everyone is going to agree.
Yet, the Apostle Peter reminds us that God desires us . . . acknowledges us . . . and, steps into relationship with us. God chooses us. We are welcomed into our place in the family. This acknowledgement of us as the children of God . . . as a chosen people . . . as a priesthood . . . a holy nation . . . should carry us through any difficulties that life should throw our way. Thus, we are to share that experience with others . . . offer to them the opportunity that we have received. And, we can do it because we are “somebody”. Ain’t it great to be “somebody”! Amen.