Servant’s Heart from the Desk of a Deacon
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the excellence 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 …”
1 Peter 2:9-10 NRSV
Do you know who you are? It seems that in recent times, many individuals and communities have experienced what is often termed “an identity crisis.” Who are we? Our identity is important to us. It defines who we are and what values guide our lives. Acknowledging and understanding our identity as God’s people is critical as we seek to carry out God’s mission in the world. Claiming our identity will lead to action – action that is in harmony with those values.
As individuals and as a community, it is incumbent on us to ask ourselves “Do You Know Who You Are?” This rich text from First Peter speaks of the identity of God’s people. I offer here some thoughts on how one might reflect on these words to deepen our understanding of what it means to be part of Christ’s church, and to encourage us to live out our God-given identity, so that we may ultimately make a difference in the world.
The author of First Peter wrote a letter of encouragement. Among other things, the writer reminds readers that they do have a place in the world. You are part of a community with a purpose and identity. “In Christ,” he said, “you are God’s people. You belong to God.” The writer in effect says, “Do you know who you are?” And he goes on to answer that question in one splendid sentence: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people.”
Those wonderful words speak across the centuries to the church in every age and in every place. They are powerful words of identity and belonging. We need to be reminded who we are, because just like the community Peter was addressing, the church today faces great challenges.
Like the original readers of First Peter, Christians today may feel out of place, alienated from the culture around them. We need to receive the words of First Peter as words spoken to us: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of the One who called you out of darkness into God’s marvelous light.”
“A chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people.” The language and metaphors are ancient. They describe four striking titles of honor and dignity drawn out of the Hebrew Scriptures. To those struggling Christians alienated from friends, family, and society – without an identity – the writer proclaims, “You are somebody!”
And for us today those words are also powerful as we seek to know who we are and what it means to be the church in these times. “You are somebody! You are like a chosen race – the people of God, precious, and beloved of God. You are like a royal priesthood – ministers of God – called to serve one another and the world. You are like a holy nation, special and set apart for God’s purpose, called to carry out God’s mission in the world.”
As people of God, our calling is: “to proclaim the mighty acts of God, who called you out of the darkness of this world into the hope and healing of God’s marvelous light.” There is both blessing and challenge with that call. We are called to bear witness to God’s love for all of creation by our lives and our actions.
“Do you know who you are?” If you do, there is every reason to be hopeful. This time in which we live is a wonderful opportunity for the church to rediscover its voice, to find new language for the gospel in a changed and changing world. This is an opportunity for the church to reinvent itself and its way of being in the world. This is an opportunity to discover new ways to reach out, to meet people where they are, to walk with them, and welcome them into the marvelous light of God’s love. We are in a challenging and hopeful time of discovering new ways to live out our calling – to love and bless the people around us. May we listen as God tells us who we are.