Peter uses a lot of imagery through this section. I want to point to a few images I’ve often missed while reading this. We have to remember that the Christians in the early church looked to Old Testament Scriptures as their guide for life and understanding of who they were as followers of Christ. In our particular branch of Christianity, the Churches of Christ, we have had a tendency to teach Old Testament stories to kids but then focus on the New Testament alone for how we live our lives. The narrative of the OT shapes much of what is said in the NT and helps bring clarity to who we are as the People of God.
Side note: my personal conviction is that any theology, approach to reading the Bible, understanding of who we are, etc. that doesn’t bring the entire view of Scripture into view from Genesis to Revelation, then it should be brought into question. There are a lot of Christian beliefs out there that do not line up with God’s calling of Israel to be a light to the nations and have essentially been condensed down to a personal walk with Jesus and personal salvation.
1:15-16 – References being called by the one who is holy, so be holy, “because I am holy.” This points back to the Hebrews in the Wilderness being called into covenant with God. He gives his list of rules for the covenant and in Leviticus 11:44-45, he calls them to be holy because he is holy. How does this call to holiness shape the way you think about “works based” righteousness? Christ alone makes us righteous. To what extent should you work towards holiness in your life?
1:19 – Peter is pointing to the Gentile Christians being part of the New Exodus and Passover (Ex 12-15). They are redeemed by the ultimate Passover lamb, the blood of Jesus, and not by the worthless idols of their upbringing. The Christians of the time were being persecuted for being different/foreigners/aliens because of how they lived, how does placing their identity in the story of the Passover and Exodus give them hope? In what ways are you placing your identity in manmade things rather than in the story of Passover and Exodus? Make a list of everything that gives you identity. In that list, which things give you hope?
2:1-10 – He uses the imagery of being the New Temple, built on the foundation of Jesus Christ himself (Isaiah 28:16; Psalm 118:22), and a Royal Priesthood, serving God as his representation to the nations (Exodus 19:4-6). Reflect on these two images. What does being “living stones…being built into a spiritual house” mean for your relationship with the church? How well can someone fulfill their calling as a Christian and not be part of the community of believers? How does being a “Royal Priesthood,” shape your understanding of being a Christian? What does this mean for how you live your life and “being holy as I am holy”?
Peter places their suffering within a bran-new story. Narrative shapes how we live our lives. If we allow the narrative of fear to shape our lives, we will do everything we can to protect ourselves and the things we own. If we allow Christ’s narrative to shape our lives, we recognize that Christ has conquered death and what happens to us in this life is not the end or the goal. The world presents a narrative of power and Christ presents a narrative of love and sacrifice. Reaching for power over others when persecution comes is not reaching for the cross. We have to prepare ourselves now for what is to come in our culture next. Will we respond with the love of Christ and holy living as those redeemed by the blood of the lamb or will we fight to keep our position in society?