I grew up, for better or worse, during a time unafflicted with concern that a child never face the prospect of feeling like an outsider. Therefore, choosing sides for a game of baseball at school recess was easy: the best two players are captains and they chose, one-by-one, whom they want on their team. This means that someone, every time, is picked last. Perhaps you were that guy or girl left chosen only by default. And if not on the ball diamond, the rest of us have felt the alienation of the being the outsider in some way. Sociology researchers speak of the need for belonging being basic to humans; a longing we do not need to be taught to have because it is just how we are made, and for what we were made.
Humans alone ask the questions, “Who am I and where do I belong?” Peter writes to a people he calls sojourners and exiles (1:1; 2:11), outsiders in other words. Besides the persecution that generally came to 1st century Christians (religious, social, economic, political) there is a general alienation all Christians for all times face for we serve a new king. Our allegiance is not to any earthbound ruler or people group; it is not even to ourselves. This radical reorientation of our lives can lead us to feel like we are often on the outside looking in: outside of power and influence, outside of cultural values, and on the wrong side of many of the issues of the day.
Thankfully, Peter reminds us that we are more than exiles – we are “elect exiles” (1:1). He goes on to write: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God’s own possession…once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people. (1 Peter 2:9-10a)” Maybe the star athlete in grade school wanted nothing to do with you, but God did! You were chosen by him, and he takes you to be his own possession. You are his inheritance, and one he will spend eternity with (1:4). When God says: “I will be their God, and they shall be my people” he also says: “I will make my dwelling among them and walk with them” (cf 2 Cor. 6:16; Lev 26:12). God, in his boundless mercy, identifies with us! He loves to abide with us, to be known as our God. He wants us on his team.
As we work through 1 Peter we will see many parallels to the challenges we face as Christians today. To meet these challenges, Peter warned his readers to “stand firm” in the grace God has given (5:12). Of first importance is to cherish our new identity “in Christ”, a person of God’s very own possession!
Mission Action Prayer: Lord, thank you for choosing me. Help me to root my identity and need for belonging completely in you and you alone.