|Photo courtesy of flaivoloka|
Nation: birth, race, nation, from nasci to be born.
This third portion of our series on 1 Peter 2:9 is interesting and it flows logically from the first two descriptions of who we are in Christ. In part one we found out that we were hand picked by God to be a His people and following that we learned that we are royalty because of our new-birth into Christ's royal line and because we will one day be married into it. Having set the stage with those two facts Peter goes on to tell us that we are a "holy nation." To understand this more fully we must understand the meaning of "holy." For the longest time my image of holiness was either divine or something that is kind of "untouchable." Let me give you a somewhat humorous example. I remember one time when I was a kid being very concerned that I shouldn't put anything on top of my Bible. Why? Because it is the "Holy" Bible and it would be sacrilege to put something on top of it... right? Luckily I had a very caring and discerning grandmother who shared with me that that probably wasn't the case. Yes, we should put nothing above it as our authority but putting another book or notebook physically on top of the Bible is probably not an issue.
It is informative and enlightening to do even a short study on the word "holy" because it really gives us a new understanding of what the word means ( I suppose that is the whole point of doing a word study on any word). There is an aspect of "holy" that means perfection and moral purity and that is rightly attributed to God. Depending on what translation you use you may find that Matthew 5:48 tells us to be "holy" or "perfect" as God is perfect or holy. In this instance the two can be interchanged, and often are. In this context the Bible is telling us to be morally pure just as God is, there are no two ways about it. Is it possible? Only if we have the perfect Christ dwelling within us. Do we realize this exhortation in our lives? Rarely, if ever.
The other aspect of the word "holy" is to be sanctified or set apart. It is this meaning that I think we need to apply to our being a "holy nation" as well. The Bible is teaching us that not only do we need to be pure but we also should understand that we are set apart for the purposes of God and His Kingdom. In the Old Testament God pulled Abraham, and later the Israelites, out from among the other nations to be special to Him and to fulfill a special purpose in His redemptive plan. As New Covenant believers we become, by spiritual grafting, part of that special group of people that God has pulled out and set apart. Truthfully, our reason for being set apart is just the same as it was for the Israelites; to be the people through which the world sees the Messiah. Matthew 5:14-16 tells us;
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
We have been specially selected to be part of God's royal family so that the world can tell there is a difference. If all the cities are on hills then there is nothing special. If there is room full of lights then one does not stand out. Yet, within the darkness of the world God has set us up and apart to display His glory. This does not mean that we build a wall around ourselves that shuts the world out. We are told that that wall of division has been broken down by the Cross. We are to display, openly the glory of God among a world that desperately needs to see it.
The second part of the description, "nation," applies directly back to our being royalty in God's Kingdom. The word "nation" shares a common root with the word that means "born." The idea of a nation has more to do with who you are born to and less to do with lines drawn on a map. Of course, we have given the word a slightly different meaning today because it does have to do with geo-political division but this is not the original intent. The number one way to be a part of the nation of Israel was to be born a Jew. Naturally, you could convert to Judaism but the easiest and more foolproof way to be identified as a Jew was by birth. The same can be said for being a part of God's holy nation. We are included in that number by our birth, or more specifically, our re-birth as Christians.
This is an important concept for us to understand as Christians, particularly American Christians. As believers we have a large family, or nation, that we are a part of that transcends national boundaries. There are Hispanic Christians, Arab Christians, Asian Christians, European Christians, African Christians, and the list goes on. Yet, our deepest and more real nationality is that of Christ and His Kingdom. It would do us well to look at a picture of the earth from space and take note of the fact that different countries are not outlined in red or colored pink and purple and blue and green. All you see is chunks of land floating among vast expanses of blue water. It is impossible to tell that people in Asia look different or speak different from the people in America. I would submit that this is how God sees the world.
So, in conclusion, as followers of Christ we are a "holy nation." That means that we should be pure morally as well as the fact that we are set apart for God's purposes. It also tells us that we are part of a vast group that spans to all corners of the globe and, in fact, all time. This is part of who we really are in Christ and the difficult challenge for us is to start acting like it.