When you know who you are, it goes a long way to being who you should be. What identifies you will drive you. If you view yourself as impoverished, you’ll live like a poor person–either languishing because of a perceived lack of resources or, striving to acquire what you think you need in order to shed your poverty.
That’s why, at least in part, I think Peter wrote his letter to those displaced by persecution. As exiles, as sojourners, as those who had no place to call home, it would have been easy to be discouraged. To see themselves as displaced outcasts could have easily led them to live as those who wandered about aimlessly. To think of themselves as unclaimed orphans would have tempted them seek to be more like those who seemed to fit in better with society.
But they weren’t outcasts, they were part of a chosen community, gathered under the banner of a “living hope” and with the promise of a future home. So, Peter reminds them that, having been born again into God’s forever family and becoming a joint heir with Christ, they had the assurance of “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” kept for them in heaven (1:3-4).
And, he wanted them to know that they weren’t orphans, alone and on their own, needing to rely on their own wisdom and resources to get through each day. But, in fact, as God’s children they were being guarded by God’s power for “a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1:5).
In reality, they had been chosen of God to be “living stones being built up as a spiritual house”, a new priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession and glory (2:5a, 9a).
Sojourners and exiles? Sure. But they were also saints and ambassadors!
Peter knew that they needed to know who they were in Christ if they were going to be able to live for Christ.
And, apparently, they needed to know they were people who were free if they were going to fulfill their call to live as slaves.
For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.
(1Peter 2:15-16 ESV)
I like verses like verse 15. Wanna know what the will of God is? Listen up, Peter says, here it is . . . do good!
But then you come to verse 16 and, for me at least, it kind of stops me in my tracks with its apparent contradiction.
They were exhorted to live as people who are free. But doing so would mean living as servants of God. Huh?
They needed to know that when they were born again they were freeborn. That they ceased to be slaves to sin and death through the finished work of the cross. That the heavy yoke of the Mosaic law had been removed. That they were now unrestrained and unfettered from any and all performance-based obligation. As Jesus Himself declared, that “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36).
Yet, these emancipated people were then to subject themselves as servants of God. To again consider themselves a people of servile condition, devoted to Another to the disregard of their own interests. Willingly abdicating the throne of their own will and subjecting themselves as slaves to God’s will.
Freed for slavery. Really?
Yup! We may be free indeed, but, as Paul reminded the Corinthians, we are also not our own (1Cor. 6:19-20).
If we really believe we are the redeemed, then we should be eager to live as the redeemed. If we embrace our identity as a holy priesthood, then we’ll want “to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (2:5b). The more we lean into our reality as a royal priesthood, then the greater our desire to “proclaim the excellencies” of the One who called us “out darkness and into His marvelous light” (2:9b).
When we know who we are, then we are free to be who we are to be.
Even if that’s being freed for slavery.
All because of grace. Only for His glory.