We, self-included, often focus on “…But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood…” (1 Peter 2:9). This is a very Protestant focus. However, it is not solely one, as both the Roman Catholic church and Eastern Orthodox also focus on it.
Much of the focus is from the “pulpit”. In other words, the pastor/priest is talking to the believers listening that they, too, are part of the priesthood of all believers. Hence, why the second half of verse 9 is as important as the first half, “…that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light…”
There is a reason for the “priesthood of all believers.” It is to be the priesthood for the world. In a number of Christian traditions, the pastor/priest has a certain role, and that is to equip the priesthood of all believers to “…proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
What is helpful here is to go back a few verses to “…you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5, NKJV)
In 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, Paul tells the Corinthians that they are a temple to God. With Peter’s words, too, we come away with this strange duality. We are both temple and priest. Yes, it is symbolism.
On the other hand, for a people far more reverent and religious than ours, this is significant.
As a temple, first, we are to be clean. Unless your house, for example, is miraculous, you have to clean it regularly. We “track” the world into our physical house. Whether it’s sweeping, vacuuming, scrubbing, or something more, we must clean our homes.
How much more so do we track the world into ourselves, a temple of God? So, therefore, we must clean ourselves as befitting a temple of God. There are plenty of ways that clean the temple. Personally, I have found the practice of Bible reading, prayer, and small group (in my case, 3 other guys spread across the country) to be the best cleansing (doesn’t make it easy). You may find other practices to be better. Just make sure the cleaning gets done regularly.
This isn’t just an “inside” job, either. The outside aspect of the temple is important, too. The world sees the outside of the temple. The peculiarity of being the temple is that we are very aware of the crevices that aren’t clean on the inside. If we focus too much on the inside, however, the outside is a mess. However, if we (like so many of us do) focus too much on the outside, the temple comes crumbling down, for the internal structure cannot hold up the facade (or false front) shown to the world, and we then dishonor God by our fallen temple.
This is not about tattoos, piercings, dyed hair, or something like that. This is about how we treat others, care for others, or even love others. This is about the behaviors we allow ourselves to do, and allow others to do. As the culture has made us all too aware, we have not done a particularly good job regarding the behaviors of others.
Nor can we forget about being “the priest”. You may have experienced this, too, where someone says that all they need to do is worship God in their car or online or even at church and that’s all that matters. It’s as if the priestly aspect of worshipping God with song is the “goal” of being a priest.
If we were to look at one of the tasks of priests (the ones in the temple), we could draw that conclusion. Except…they weren’t the only priests. The majority of priests (from an Old Testament point of view) didn’t work at the temple. They were among the people.
Much of the Christian view has been twisted (with significant reason) to view that the entirety of the priestly class was the leadership that as described in the New Testament that followed and harassed and challenged Jesus. Yet, while the Scribes and the Pharisees were the loud obnoxious ones we read about, we know that they weren’t the only ones out there (think of John the Baptist’s dad).
The priestly act isn’t only the roles and tasks at temple that need doing. It is the healing and guiding of the world. With even a little bit of introspection, we know that we need the power of, and to be changed by, God to do either of those well.
- What does it mean for you to be a priest?
- What are some of the ways that you are a temple to and of God?
- How does you being a priest affect your understanding of also being a temple?
God, grant us the lamp of love that never grows dim,
that it may shine in us and warm our hearts,
giving light to others through our love for them,
by its brightness provide a vision of the holy city where the true and inextinguishable light of Jesus Christ our Lord shines. Amen.
— a modified prayer of Columbanus