But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)
Do you ever stop and wonder, “Why am I so busy?” Our jobs and hobbies and schools demand so much time from us. We hardly have a chance to breathe, much less enjoy life or friendships. Our culture teaches us: “You are what you do. You are what you produce. You are what you have to show for yourself.” This “doing” mindset goes way back. The Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” The pressure to succeed, to be somebody important, to contribute something meaningful to the world is an ever-present burden. And many of us crack under the weight.
Sadly, this “doing” culture has hijacked much of what we know as Christianity. Many people would summarize Christianity as learning how to “do” life or “doing the right thing.” It is defined by rules and regulations, practices and precepts, in a word; religion. Religion is doing for God what he requires so that he will accept us. This. is. not. Christianity. The passage above is taken from a letter written by Peter, a guy who knew Jesus and spent three or four years of his life with him walking the dusty roads of the Middle East.
At one point in their journey, Peter looked at Jesus and said, “I’ll do anything for you. I’ll even die for you.” Jesus didn’t respond because he knew that later that night, when Peter would have his opportunity to die with Jesus, he would deny that he even knew him. Three times. Peter had to learn the hard way that “doing the right thing” is not in our ability. He learned later on that Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth to “do” for us what we can’t do ourselves. Jesus did it right. And he offered his perfect record as payment for all our failure. Jesus’ perfect life made a way for Peter and anyone else who trusts in him to be forgiven and accepted by God. And God gave mercy to people who had not received mercy.
It took him a while, but Peter finally got it. Christianity is primarily about “being.” He wrote these words to a group of churches in Asia Minor: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession.” This is who we are in Christ. Our identity is fixed by God’s gracious choice. He makes us who we are. Our works do not define us, and therefore, they do not enslave us. Aristotle was wrong. We are not what we do. Rather, we do what we are.