“You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.” Matthew 5:14, The Message
Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you[a] will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites
1 Peter 2:9-10
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Recently I saw a survey which really caught my attention. According to the survey 87 percent of Americans say they believe in God while 52 percent said they believed the Bible is God’s authoritative word. Now the statistic which shocked me the most is that only 36 percent believed that one should live by these principles. In other words 2/3 of Americans(most who would claim to believe in God) believe that God’s word plays no part in how they live their lives. These statistics really should not surprise us. The once favored status which the Bible and God had within American culture is a thing of the past. There is a great debate amongst many on the idea that our nation was founded as a Christian nation. Whether this is accurate or not, it is true that our nation was founded by people with strong and moral convictions which could be found in the Bible. This is not to say that our early founders were always moral people but that they at least held the Bible in high regard when it came to forming laws and shaping culture. It may be safe to say that the hold the Bible held on our culture is now a thing of the past. We only have to look at what Americans now believe about some of the moral issues of the day. Maybe the one moral issue which stands out the most which reminds us that the Bible is losing its hold on culture is what Americans believe about homosexuality and gay marriage. Over 60% of Americans believe that homosexuality is ok. 73% percent believe that gay marriage will be accepted in all 50 states at some point. These numbers have risen drastically in just a few short years and will probably continue to rise as media and politicians have taken on the cause of these lifestyles. So what should be the Christian response to our culture which is becoming more anti-God?
Fortunately the Bible has a lot to say about how we can live in a broken culture. Matter of fact when many of the Bible writers both Old & New Testament wrote encouragement to believers in how to live for God, it was written in cultures which were very hostile towards the God of the Bible. Yet God gave these holy men instruction in how we could live. In Exodus we learn that God is wanting his people to become a kingdom of priest. This idea of being a holy priesthood starts with Moses but sees it’s fulfillment in the church when Peter calls the church a chosen people and royal priesthood. The Holy nation which Peter talks about is not some nation with particular political boundaries but a called out people who would cross all national boundaries. During Peter’s time Rome was a blood thirsty, pagan worshipping, spiritually depleted society. Peter’s advice to the church in this non- Christian culture was for the church to simply be a holy priesthood. So what does a Holy priesthood look like? To understand this we simply need to know a few characteristics of priest in the Old Testament. I have listed a few of these now.
First Priest were servants. Unlike any other calling in the Old Testament the priest were truly servants of the people of God. When the land was divided up amongst the 12 tribes each tribe got land except the tribe of Levi. God had a special plan for them. They were not to own land but simply be freed up to serve throughout the whole nation. They were servants who performed the sacrifices for the people. They did not get caught up in the affairs of daily life but simply served the people in front of them. Sometimes you and I(and I put heavy emphasis on I because I am the worst offender) get caught up with everything that goes on in our culture. I get caught up with the politics of the day and the debates which go on in the media. I am not saying that these issues are not important but if we are going to be a holy priesthood than we simply need to spend more time serving and lest time debating. Jesus himself spent little time if any debating the politics of Rome. Jesus washed feet and healed the sick. Jesus fed the hungry and encouraged the broken. Priesthood is about serving people. Who can you serve today?
Secondly priest were mediators. Maybe one of the highest callings for the priesthood is that they were the go between for Israel and God. When people needed to make atonement for their sins they would bring an offering or sacrifice before the priest so that he could offer it to God on their behalf. Each year one priest had the honor and responsibility of being the high priest for the nation. The high priest would go once a year into the Holy of Holies and represent God’s people seeking forgiveness for the nation. When Peter said we were to be a holy priesthood a great part of this ministry was to be a mediator for people. We no longer have to offer up sacrifices for the sins of people but we certainly can lift up prayers for those in the World. When is the last time you prayed for a political figure? How many of us are asking God to change the hearts of those in Hollywood to make movies which honor God? When is the last time you have prayed for and invited your friends to church? Prayer for the lost and those who govern us are a huge way that we can be priest for God in our broken culture.
Finally priest were proclaimers. Not only did they perform sacrifices for people in the Old Testament but they were looked to for direction in knowing the will of God. Priest made clear God’s word and direction for people. Today as a royal priesthood we have an obligation to proclaim the good news. Christians are to be heralds who “proclaim the Lords death until he comes”(1 Cor. 11:26) This proclamation is not simply sharing that Jesus died to the World but explaining its implication for the World. The World needs to know that there is hope in our brokenness. People need to know that Jesus is the answer to their deepest need of intimacy and fellowship. Jesus is the answer to the problem of everything wrong and ultimately Jesus is the answer to the problem of death. Are you proclaiming the good news?
One of my favorite illustrations recently was one by John Howard Yoder a 20th century theologian. Yoder was trying to explain the role of Christians as priest within our society. He said Christians are like musicians at a concert. Their greatest role is to play their instrument. It would be foolish of them to step down from playing their instrument to help usher people into the auditorium. Certainly the usher is an important role but without the musician there is no concert. There are a lot of things you and I can be doing in this World. But the one thing the church cannot afford to give up is its role as a holy priesthood. We are needed to bring light into our culture. My prayer is we will take our calling to be priest as top priority in our lives.