“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
In the Bible, the Old Testament priests were meant to be mediators between God and his people. A mediator is someone who bridges the gap between two people.
In the New Testament, Peter writes that as God’s people we are all being formed into a “royal priesthood.” Many Protestants find that title a little odd, or even suspicious. After all, Jesus is our high priest (Heb. 3:1; 4:14; 6:20), so through him we no longer need someone to be a bridge between us and God, right?
Right. But as Christians, we are called to be a royal priesthood in the sense that we are to bring God’s love, grace and beauty to the world, and bring the world’s pain, evil, and suffering to God. As Jesus’ royal priests, Christians should be people who are known for bringing the healing, forgiving, gracious love of God to the world, while bringing the chaos of the world to God.
I spoke about this recently at church (the sermon “Saving Grace” at www.grindstonechurch.com), and I’ve been reflecting on how passive I’ve been for much of my Christian life as a “priest.” I see how I’ve been willing to be that bridge between the shalom of God and the world’s chaos, but I don’t tend to actively look for opportunities to mediate God’s grace and love to the world. In other words, I’ve been a very passive priest.
It’s a lot more comfortable and convenient to be a passive priest. You get to serve on your own terms and in your preferred environment–your preferred “temple.” After a while you’ve come to identify the places in your life where it “works” for you to give and love, and subtly make others rearrange their needs accordingly. You become a priest, but only in the most formal sense of the word.
Being a part of Jesus’ royal priesthood, however, involves a radically different vision for your life. That’s because Jesus’ preferred environment–his preferred “temple”–isn’t the church or specific religious place where the “real” ministry happens; it’s the whole world. So Jesus tells his priests to go into all of the world (Matthew 28:19) and invite others into this priesthood.
When I think about that vision, I feel ashamed at how far I live from that calling and mission. I’m embarrassed to admit how quickly I sidestep opportunities that would propel me into places that would demand I dig deep with God and others. I’m embarrassed to admit how quickly I retreat into “church work,” and label my cowardice “ministry.”
How do I move beyond this heart and mind-set? How do I change? I don’t know. I really don’t.
I’ll just keep looking at Jesus. I’m keep studying him, reading about him, and meditating on his life and message. I’ll keep the author and perfector of my faith ever before me. Because as scary as it is, the more I fix my eyes on Jesus, the more I sense God forming me into a royal priest who strikes out everyday to bring the shalom of God into the world, and bring the brokenness of the world back to God.