Saturday, October 8, 2022
Let’s pretend I’m going to build a house with stones.
First, I’d need a bunch of stones dumped in my yard. Then I would need to expertly stack them, making sure to pick the right stones that fit together and that don’t fall over in the breeze. I’d also need some kind of mortar or clay to hold them together. I can imagine some of the stones would be a bit too big to be lifting and moving around, so I’d need a tractor with a bucket, or even better, a crane. There’s a lot that would go into this.
Now let’s pretend I actually completed my stone house. I still have a giant pile of rocks that I didn’t use. Some are just weird shapes, or cracked, or plain ugly. There is one stone in particular that was my least favorite because I kept tripping over it. I don’t want anything to do with these stones anymore.
Now I throw a little stone house-warming party, and my neighbor comes over. He says, “Hey, I want to build a stone house, too. Can I use the stones you didn’t want? I’ve got just the spot for each of them, especially that one you kept tripping over.”
“Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like 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.” (1 Peter 2:4-5 NRSV)
Now that we’ve heard and accepted the good news (remember yesterday’s reading?), we’ve become “living stones” to God. The world will look at us and scoff because we’re weirdly shaped and of no use to them, but God has a special use for all of us. He especially chose each of us for his project.
God is building us together into what Peter calls a “spiritual house” to be a “royal priesthood” to “offer spiritual sacrifices.” Peter is using this imagery to prompt us to imagine ourselves as the temple of God. The temple is a sacred space where the divine lives, just as we are to be sacred spaces where God’s spirit dwells.
The priests are like mediators between the divine realm and the world, helping to make connections between the two. For us to be a royal priesthood means that we have access to God that we are to share with others. We are to connect God and people. We are to bring people into the experience of who God is.
The last part of that is that we are to make “spiritual sacrifices.” Naturally, when we think of sacrifices in the context of a temple, images of bloody animals appear in our head. If not, then I just made you think of bloody animals, and you’re welcome. Peter’s not suggesting that we do the kind of sacrifice that requires killing animals, but the kind that requires doing the right thing even if (or especially if) it costs us something.
The perfect example we have of this, of course, is Jesus. In the face of suffering and rejection, he chose to do the right thing and offer his life on our behalf. Doing the right thing didn’t just cost him something—it cost him everything. God notices and responds to our sacrifices. In Jesus’ case, he was resurrected and exalted to God’s right hand. He was rejected by the world but made into the stone holding the whole house together.
We’re to follow Jesus’ example and be willing to put ourselves in God’s hands as we do the right things, knowing we could very well lose something in the process. Just as God saw Jesus’ sacrifices, he will acknowledge and respond to ours. That doesn’t mean that we should do good things expecting a reward, but that God is just, and will remember the trouble we went through while pursuing His purposes.
We know the world is going to be skeptical of our stone house. One hope is that through being God’s servants and living blamelessly (doing the right thing), the world may look at us and see honor in what we do. We are witnesses and priests to them, representing God to them as Christ did to us. We can hope that the fruit of our sacrifice is that God can gather even more living stones to make the stone house bigger and stronger.
Thanks for coming along with me this week on our journey through the book of James and the beginning of 1 Peter.
1. How does it make you feel knowing that God chose you to be one of his living stones?
2. What kinds of spiritual sacrifices have you made? What did it cost you?