1 PETER 2:1-10
1Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. 2Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation - 3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
4Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God's sight, and 5like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For it stands in scripture:
"See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame." 7To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe, "The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner," 8and "A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
As a church we have been blessed with the birth of many beautiful babies. The most beautiful baby in our congregation is ... ask the mother of the baby and you'll get the answer! With babies come sleepless nights, dirty diapers, general fatigue, and the radical reordering of life. And no matter how much we enjoy the babies at their infant stage, almost all parents want their little ones to grow!
We instinctively know that babies are not meant to be babies forever. That would be a terrible curse. It would be a medical condition as tragic as progeria -- a genetic disorder whose symptoms manifest aspects of aging in children. Cuteness is fine; maturation is better.
This metaphor of babies and milk lies behind Peter's statement in verse 2. Unlike 1 Corinthians 3:2 or Hebrews 5:12-14 where milk is contrasted unfavorably to solid food, Peter is simply saying that milk is appropriate food for babies. And the point behind this statement is that, as milk is for growth of babies, we too should get nourished for our growth into salvation. For Peter, as well as for Paul, salvation is understood not only as a state (as in, "I am saved") but also as a process or progression ("I am being saved").
A key marker for whether we are maturing or not -- whether we are growing into our salvation or not -- is understanding and living out our identity. We cannot live out who we are in Christ if we do not understand who we are in Christ. In other words, our maturation in Christ depends on our knowledge of who we are.
So, who are we? A chosen race. A royal priesthood. A holy nation. God's own people. Those who have received mercy. Understanding each of these concepts is important to our maturation, that is, for our spiritual and theological growth. Notice that the scriptural emphasis is always corporate identity. Our individual identities are derivative and secondary. We are a people first. We are persons second. We are chosen by God. We did not achieve some special status by our own will power or wisdom. Who we are is completely the product of God's grace at work in calling us -- a chosen race. We are also kingly, royal. We have a certain status that's endowed by God. A dignity is conferred and the honor that goes with it. We as "royal" are given real authority. No make believe costume party. And as "priests" we bless God through our priestly ministry and we also intercede for people -- humanity, actually -- and in our priestly role, we can even add the blessing of creation itself. We are also a kind of nation. A "holy" ["set apart"] nation of people from all the tribes of the world. Our holy identity as a people supersedes our natural ethnic or racial identity. We are brothers and sisters in Christ first and foremost. We are citizens of God's Kingdom preeminently. We belong to God. We are a people who've experienced first hand God's mercy, His compassion in Jesus, His salvation in the cross and resurrection of Jesus.
This is but a layer of who we are. There's more. There's more because our maturation is deep and our salvation is profound.
Let's pray: Father God, we thank you that you start us off as mere infants. You give us milk to drink, as it were. You don't stop there. You mature us. You feed us food beyond milk. You know exactly what we need for our growth -- for our salvation, for our maturity, for our identity. All these three areas being linked. Help us to grow! Help us to shed things we don't need (like malice, guile, insincerity, envy, and slander). Help us to put on things appropriate for who we truly are (like love, faith, hope, graciousness, kindness, gentleness, forbearance, and prayerfulness). We want to mature! Help us so! In Jesus' name, amen.