“Therefore as children of obedience, don’t be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the holy one who called you, be holy yourselves in all your behavior.” (I Peter 1:14)
When I was born on June 11, 1959, I was born Catherine Anne Kelly. Like both of my parents I have blue eyes, brown hair, and like my mom, numerous freckles. I possess the Kelly nose, a distinguishing (and not the most beautiful) factor in our family. Being a Kelly meant helping to keep an immaculate lawn, enjoying steak and baked potatoes regularly at the dinner table (which I never really enjoyed), and on the whole learning the value of a dollar and enjoying the rewards of a comfortable way of life.
A Kelly morning shower was 3 minutes long, any longer and the hot water was turned off (no joke). Kellys camped and fished (Monacos love staying in hotels and lounging in the sun). As a Kelly I was taught I must be prompt – “11:00pm means 11:00, not five minutes before, not five minutes after.” If, (and when) I stepped over the 11:01 line I violated the “law” of the Kelly household. When the garage door was open and my dad’s car was gone I knew I was going to experience the consequence of that violation. I was taught responsiblity and consequently when I disobeyed, I lost my parent’s trust and had to earn it back. I appreciate my upbringing and the Kelly heritage that runs through my veins.
Interestingly, I Peter teaches us that before the world’s foundation, God chose us to be born again into His family. Spiritually reborn as His children we enjoy all the rights and privileges of His household. Ours is an eternal inheritance, and the Holy Spirit is our down-payment. This remarkable transformation takes place in an instant (when we received Christ we were justified/declared righteous) and it takes place over the course of our life on earth (sanctification).
Peter, as he addresses the first century family of God, and you and me in 2011, calls us to live up to our family name. We’re now “children of obedience” and called to be holy – set apart – in all our behavior. As my pastor preached on I Peter this weekend, he reminded us that we’re called to live like aliens.
However, when we hear the admonition: “Be holy in all your behavior” we tend to take our eyes off of Jesus, off of the pages of our Bibles, and put them directly on ourselves. We might compare our “holiness” with those around us, right? “Well, I don’t watch R-rated movies like they do.” Or, “At least I don’t let my girls wear bikinis.” “I shop at WalMart instead of Whole Foods because it’s a better use of my money.” Holiness might mean no piercings and certainly not a tattoo, driving a battered used car instead of new one, homeschooling instead of public school (or the other way around).
Peter, perhaps realizing this, reminds us to keep our eyes on Jesus, who gave His very life, shed His precious and perfect blood as a holy sacrifice for our sin. It’s about Him and not about us. It’s purely by His undeserved grace that we enjoy family status. And, because we call the God of the Universe our Abba, our Papa, we’re called to represent Him by living in such a way that sets us apart.
Fervently, passionately love each other! By this, Jesus said, everyone will know we’re God’s children by this astonishing love we have for each other. He describes this love as being without slander or malice, but instead a real love from the heart. Later in the book, Peter exhorts us to live carefully in the midst of unbelievers because they’re watching! They can smell hypocrisy a mile away.
Being set apart, loving like Jesus loved us, living lives that declare His excellence is impossible apart from His power. This is why I love II Peter 1:2-4, which essentially says that He has given us everything we need for life and godliness as we grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. I John 3:1 tells us that if we fix our hope on Him we’ll be pure, just as He is pure. Wow…think about what that says. Let it sink into the fiber of your being.
It’s not about us…it’s about Him.
So, how can I BE HOLY? “Like newborn babes long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” My years of experience as a child of God attests to the truth of Peter’s call – as we spent time in the Word we really do learn not just intellectually what pleases Him, but through the mysterious and wonderfully present power of His Spirit, we’re changed!