Zebras are noted for their black and white stripes. On the surface it would appear they are highly noticeable for their prey stretched across a Kenyan landscape of browns, deep reds and greens. A zebra filled horizon would look like an easy fast-food lunch for lions and leopards. However, when looking at a swirling mass of black and white – it is impossible to see where one zebra ends and the next begins. When there are many zebras together they stand in unison for protection. One zebra is weak but many are powerful.
– Likewise, when God’s people stand together in unison they have the power to accomplish great things.
EXAMINE 1 Peter 2:9-12
Peter writes to a group of Christians who are having difficulty living as a Christian in the world. These early Christians experienced great persecution for their faith under the Roman emperor Nero. Yet, Peter encourages them to remain faithful understanding that in this world they are as aliens/strangers or pilgrims passing through to the next. And as they live out Christian truth and practice they realize they must do so together in the community of faith God has placed them in.
An analogy of moving from ME to WE is in the illustration of marriage. Before marriage there are two single adults living for themselves. It’s not that is all bad, it’s just that when a person is married they live for something and someone beyond self. When you get married you gain not only a spouse but an entirely new family in which you are inextricably linked, for better or worse. The same is true when a sinner becomes a Christian. They move from self to others, supremely to bring glory to God.
We move from me to we when we acquire our God-filled identity (1 Peter 2:9a)
Peter writes to a generation of people. The language is not singular (you) but plural (ya’ll). In our Americanized Christianity we have lost the concept of community and togetherness. Our lives are so individualized where almost everything becomes about “me” and meeting personal wants or needs. Christianity has become a consumer religion where individuals pick and choose what they want out of their church experience, with little thought as to how it affects others.
Christians must learn the difference between being a passenger on a ship and a member of a ship’s crew. The difference is that the ship never gets off the dock to fulfill its created purpose if the crew members are selfish and refuse to work together.
Peter describes the Christian’s identity in terms of who we are together in 3 aspects:
- WE are chosen. God has chosen the unchooseable. There is no one worthy of God’s grace, mercy, love or choice. God’s chosen people are not a race from only white, black, red, yellow or brown. The chosen people are those of all races, who have repented from sin and have received God’s free gift of grace through faith. I do not understand why God chooses those He does. I only know that I am in awe that I get to be a part of God’s salvation plan in all of history.
- WE are a royal priesthood. This is what Protestants call “the priesthood of the believer”. God has made all Christians as priests in that we have the same access to God through Jesus Christ. The royalty has nothing to do with the priests but with the King whom the priests serve. In turn, we are called to a life of priestly service to King Jesus in bridging the divide between God and man.
- WE are a holy nation, His own special people. Literally the phrase is ‘a people for possession’ or a people who were won. God bought and redeemed us for His joy. We belong to Him and He belongs to us as He fills us with His Holy Spirit.
The idea here is that the Christian’s identity is fulfilled in a God-centered view of humanity. The world attempts to define identity in terms of external self-image, material possessions accumulated all in human terms. However, the Christian only understands their identity when they understand God and His work for us in Jesus Christ. The question, “Who am I?” is answered by Peter through our relationship to Jesus.
Furthermore, understanding our identities leads to understanding our life destiny and purpose.
We move from me to we when we act on our God-filled destiny (1 Peter 2:9b-12).
Peter builds off the Christian’s identity to inform the Christian’s life-purpose and mission. It is important to note that salvation is not just a saving from something (sin), but a saving to something (godliness and gospel messaging).
The purpose of a Christian is to proclaim or declare the praises of Him [Jesus] who has called us out of darkness and into marvelous light. The believer’s role is to marvel and message to others about the gospel. The word “aretas” is wonderful deeds, praises, excellencies.
Peter is saying that the gospel is too amazing to keep quiet about. In an earlier chapter he says that angels long to understand the gospel – why God would send His perfect Son to die for sinful humanity. When a believer grasps God’s love for them they will not be able to remain silent. Wayne Grudem in his commentary in the book says, “This purpose of redemption is too often thwarted by our silence or self-congratulatory pride…”
In addition to proclaiming the gospel to others, Peter strongly urges believers to abstain from sin which war against our soul. The Christian’s conduct is to remain morally pure with integrity so that we do not bring shame against Jesus or His people. When people observe our life they should see Jesus working through us.
As this message closes it is helpful to summarize how our generation, our church can move from ME to WE. In doing so, I want to offer four transforming words to help us apply this message.
Gratitude. When a person sees, hears and understands the gospel they should be in awe. They should bow down in wonder and amazement that God would accept us not on personal righteousness but by unconditional grace. Never lose your gratitude for the gospel.
- How are you noticeably expressing gratitude to God for the gospel?
- Have you received God’s gospel into your life?
Goals. The gospel not only defines a person’s identity but also life purpose and mission. When you receive the gospel you have an insatiable desire to bring joy to Jesus and others. The believer’s purpose can be summed up in loving God and loving others [neighbor]; see Matthew 22:34-40.
- What goals do you have to share the gospel with others? Do you have a High 5 to share with?
Generosity. God wants to do glorious things through us but too often we become stingy and hoard God’s blessings. The purpose of God’s blessings are so that we can be a blessing to others. We must seek ways to be generous in going and giving for missions.
- John Piper says of world missions, “There are three kinds of Christians. There are goers, there are senders and there are the disobedient.”
- Do you give a tithe to local gospel ministry?
- Do you give to the cause of world missions?
- Do you give of your time and talents to serve God and others?
Groups. The gospel changes us when we submit to God and serve others. Group life is necessary for spiritual growth and moving from ME to WE.
- 1 Peter 4:10 “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”
Grudem, W. A. (1988). Vol. 17: 1 Peter: An introduction and commentary. Originally published: Grand Rapids, MI : Eerdmans, 1988. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (119). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.