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Hope for Our Humanity

“Be holy, because I am holy.” Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:16b-19) 

In the face of our troubled and broken world, do you have hope? If so, where is your hope? Is it in the economy? Science? Technology? The power of the human spirit to overcome? I don’t know about you, but it is hard to place my hope in any of these things. They don’t feel as secure as they once were. One thing I fear, one thing that shakes my hope is this question: “in the face of hard times, will I still be a good person?” If supply lines are cut and the shelves of grocery stores are bare, will I still be generous or will I hoard supplies for myself? As the world gets more divided will I still love my neighbour or will I fear those different from me? As we fight for justice for the oppressed, will I begin to hate the “bad guys”? Will I become a bad guy? Miroslav Volf comments: “ is crucial to keep watch over the state of our humanity. Evil is infectious, especially for those who struggle against it. Keeping watch over our humanity means … not letting evil conform us, morph us into its own image.”

Holiness, in these two senses, is the fruit of regaining our humanity

In midst of Peter’s evil time, God commands believers to be holy. Holiness, in Leviticus, has at least two meanings: right living and right relations. Holiness, ‘set apart’, meant Israel was called to be different from other nations and this was marked by the way they interacted with and loved God. But holiness also referred to how they interacted with our neighbours. It hinted at the Hebrew concept of shalom, the restoration of all our relationships. Holiness, in these two senses, is the fruit of regaining our humanity – being made in the image of God, not the image of evil – free to love God and our neighbours. How is this possible? In 1 Peter we see that our Lord Jesus grows our holiness not by behavior modification or self-flagellation, but by growing our hope. The hope of Christ grows our holiness and Peter uses two images to describe this hope. 

First, hope is longing for a better home (like a newcomer). My mother is very thankful to be in Canada; however her home is still in the Philippines. Her home shapes her desires and identity. Like many other Filipinos she loves to speak her own languages and eat her own food. Her desire is not to make lots of money and get a big house in Canada. It is to make sure all her family back home has a roof over their head and enough to eat. Newcomers give us a picture of the gospel. They remind us that this nation, this world is not our home. 

When our home is in God, our desires change.

Second, hope is focusing on the imperishable (like one experiencing poverty). One way to understand the word ‘imperishable’ is that it is actually a military term which can mean “secure from invasion”. If an invasion were to come to Canada, what things would be secure? What couldn’t be touched by an invading army? Not much really. Our land, our money, our family, our national security and peace can all be taken away. If we put our hope in these perishable things like silver and gold what will stop us from giving up hope or becoming the villain we fear – when these are taken away? Peter reminds us that it is not with perishable things that we were redeemed. Jesus established the Kingdom by paying with his own blood and it can never be invaded; it can never be taken away.  

My friends living in poverty have taught me so much about focusing on the imperishable. When asked “What did you learn living in poverty and homelessness?”, Johnny Lee responded, “I learned a lot about what a mistake it is to try and aspire to be a good citizen, to try and attain things that are only temporary. I learned more about getting in touch with relationships with other people. How people should treat each other, take care of each other, look out for each other... Being part of the system it is all structured, hierarchal; you are either the boss or labourer, rich or poor. Those labels and stratification has no place on the streets”. Johnny just summed up 1 Peter for us. Hope is focusing on imperishable things not temporary things. Also hope is longing for a heavenly citizenship, which like the streets, does not depend on how much money you make. 

When our heart is in this perishable world, we will be the ones hoarding and hating others. We will be the ones who, in fear, resort to violence. When our home is in God, our desires change. The Spirit of Christ makes us holy – he empowers us to live with righteousness and justice. We will want to love God and love others. We will gladly share what we have; we will not be afraid even as the worst approaches. Jesus grows our holiness by growing our hope. 

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