One of the things that I love about the Book of 1 Peter is how it communicates the essential connection between life in Christian community and mission. Peter is writing to a group of Christians who were displaced from their homes for political reasons and were probably also facing various kinds of persecution. As followers of a “new religion,” these Christians were met with suspicion by their pagan neighbors, masters, and rulers. They were misunderstood, lied about, and threatened. Understanding their situation, Peter, throughout his letter, strengthens these believers’ faith by both reminding them that they have been “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” and challenging them to be holy and honorable in their conduct, earnest in their love for one another, submissive to authority, and doing good in their community.
One of Peter’s most important points is that Christian virtue, displayed by both individuals and the church as a whole, is a powerful evangelistic argument to the truth of Christ (see 2:12and 15). In the midst of a culture that was hostile to their beliefs, living out authentic Christian community was a powerful testimony to the gospel. In Peter’s mind, then, Christian community is meant to be put on display for the sake of the gospel!
Perhaps Peter’s most powerful and beautiful statement of the connection between community and mission comes in 2:9, where he writes: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaimthe excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Here, Peter articulates that one of God’s purposes in calling a people, saving a people, and setting a people apart as holy was so that his people would proclaim to the world his amazing works of salvation. God created a community and called us to live by kingdom principles not only for our community’s sake but also for the world’s sake. Life as a community is meant for Christians to be sure, but also so thatnon-Christians may see it and experience it as well. When we love each other deeply, when we serve each other faithfully, and when we care for each other and push each other toward holiness, we are putting on display the power of the amazing salvation of our God. And our world needs to hear this. Our world needs to see this. Our world needs to experience this.
The question, then, is this: do we orient our life as a communityso that the world hears our proclamation of the gospel and sees in our lives the amazing salvation of God put on display?