The world is full of people, communities, and even nations that feel useless. We call it low self-esteem. It plays havoc on people’s lives, and in some cases even pushes people into violence. Just think about the young man who went on a killing spree just a year ago at Virginia Tech or the boys who shot up Combine High School several years back. In both cases the perpetrators believed that they were worthless and had nothing to live for. While these are extreme examples, the anger and humiliation that they felt afflict many in our world.
I. THE LIVING TEMPLE
This imagery has a number of implications. First of all, it suggests that we’re all part of a building, and therefore we don’t stand alone. Who we are, and what we do, as the people of God, affects the lives of others. Paul uses similar imagery when speaking of God’s people as parts of a body, with each member being important. As Paul reminds us; We each bring different gifts to the community, without which the body is diminished.
We call this the doctrine of election. This doctrine suggests that we will find the key to our identity in our relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s not our family, jobs, education, places of birth, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, or even our ethnicity. What defines us is Christ. Everything else might be important, but they’re secondary to this relationship. As Paul wrote in Galatians, "there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise." (Gal. 3:28-29). It’s fine for us to celebrate our heritage and our accomplishments, but no matter whether we’re Hispanic, Ukrainian, African-American, Irish, English, Italian, Korean or Japanese, ultimately we are who we are because we’re chosen by God. When we see each other in this light then the differences disappear into the background, and we discover that we’re one people, one nation, and that we’re created by and loved by God.
Chapter 2 begins with the admonishment to "get rid of all malicious behavior and deceit" (vs. 1, NLT). Why does Peter call on them to put away such things? For one thing, Peter wants them to know that their character proclaims the mighty acts of God to the world. William Willimon tells of a young girl who displayed this sense of purpose:
Everyone else in her group at school left the new girl to herself at lunch. She was new, from another part of the world. She never spoke in class and when she did, few could understand her, with her strange way of talking, her accent.
So when she got up and moved over to her table in the cafeteria at lunchtime, people looked up and noticed. Later, when one of the others asked, "what you doin' actin' so nice to that weird new girl?" She responded, "It just seemed like the right thing for me to do."
"Why?" persisted the other girl.
"I'm, I'm trying to be a Christian," she said in reply.
Without words, this young girl raised the banner of God's kingdom by attempting to include an outsider.
In this world of conformists and people who "go along to get along," it is rather amazing that there's anyone who stands up, stands alone. Yet such are the gifts of God. Our gifts to God.1