I have talked about these verses before... but I want to add a layer.
Exodus 19:5-6 (NIV)
Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all the nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
This is one of the amazing promises that God gave to Israel. And we are offered this same promise.
1 Peter 2:5,9 (NIV)
You also, like living stones, are being built up into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
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 and into His wonderful light.
We are a Kingdom of Priests
That is who we are. There is nothing new here yet. This is long time church doctrine rooted in good biblical exegesis. The next step is where things get fun for me.
What the heck does that mean? What do we do? And again, I have talked about this before but quick review...
Priests serve 4 basic functions:
1. They become the physical representation of their god - They put their god on display
2. They are the mediator that is the voice box of their god to the people - They speak the words of their god to the people
3. They intercede on the people's behalf to their god - They tell the god what the people need
4. They properly distribute their god's resources to meet needs - they make a statement about the power of their god by caring for those less fortunate
I want to ask one simple question with this post that is pretty important to wrestle with.
How do I put my God on display to the world?
At one level, the answer is simple: obey. And that is true, but there may be a few more layers to unfold before we get down to the nitty-gritty of living as a priest of our God.
What does obedience look like? Simple answer - do what God says. Follow the rules. Okay that sounds fairly straight forward. But there seems to be a million more questions that need to be asked before I can just obey.
When I was a kid, the idea of simple obedience didn't work. It had to be connected to something deeper. My parents hoped that when I got older, maturity would bring a trust that would allow me to just do what I was supposed to without the questions, and without the "trial and error."
In fact, at one level, getting older made it worse. I had more and more questions about what obedience actually is and why these rules and who does He think He is and on and on.
Some thoughts: first, obedience isn't about control. He isn't trying to make us obey for obedience's sake. God's rules are about revealing His nature. We don't steal because God is generous. We don't murder because God is life. We take care of the alien, the orphan and the widow because God is compassionate. We don't commit adultery because God is love. Each of God's "laws" are a revelation of His amazing character.
Second, consistent within these laws, is the truth that we will each fulfill these commandments in slightly different ways. "Love your neighbor as yourself" is a command of God and obviously has direct implications on my time, my energy, and my self control. But what it specifically looks like is as unique as I am. And that may be the bigger point (more on that in a bit).
Some will love their neighbor by being kind. Some will love their neighbor by taking them a meal, or mowing the lawn, or building a solid friendship. All of these things would be considered "loving" but not all of them will be done by everybody. Loving my neighbor for some would include helping on a home improvement project. I can promise you that I would not be loving to my neighbor if I got involved in that. But to sit down have a meaningful conversation with them about tough issues - this would be me acting in a very loving way.
And God smiles when I act in ways that are consistent with 2 things: His "rules, laws, and commands" that reveal His character. And, my created design that is unique and important but displays a piece of God in the situation that only I can bring.
And BOTH of these truths needs to be in line for us to truly understand what it means to put our God on display. We reveal the nature and the character of God as we obey His commands consistent with who we are. This is at the core of us possessing the image of God.
The "Imago Dei" doctrine says that God put a little piece of Himself in you. What is that piece?
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him male and female he created them.
Is this just a broad overarching thing like, we have a soul and we walk on 2 legs? Or is there something deeper, more mysterious, and more profound? If God is consistent with with all the rest of the text, I choose deeper and more profound.
What does it mean to bare the Imago Dei?
Simply this: God has put an amazing piece of Himself in you. Not all of Himself, but a piece. And that piece is important - it is God Himself revealing to the world who He is through you. But in order to truly experience all of God's nature, we need others who are also given this little piece of God's nature. And together we round one another out and give a broader picture of our God than we ever thought possible.
So maybe the notion that I need to just obey is incomplete. Obedience is God's love language, no doubt. But maybe a better way to understand following God is that I obey His commands in a way that is consistent with the design God gave me within the context of a community that calls out and celebrates the design God puts in people and His work around us.
Does your church do that?