(1 Peter 2:9, “a chosen race”)
Racism is a highly charged subject in our society. We struggle with properly admitting that there are different “kinds” of people, and then with ensuring that all “kinds” of people are treated equitably.
The Bible also speaks of “kinds.” It is the prerogative of God to establish kinds of plants (Genesis 1:11-12), and kinds of people (Gen 11). In the Bible, a “race” of people seems to designate a line of descendants from a particular father. Part of the reason for this may be because God delights in variety.
So when God chooses to designate “a chosen race,” He does so by selecting out Abraham to be the father of a new people (Gen 12). A major reason that God chooses is that He desires to accomplish His wider purposes (blessing all the families of the earth) through His particular choices (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob). Over time, this people is redeemed by God from slavery in Egypt, and formed into a covenant people at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19-24). They are to be characterized, as was their father, Abraham, by a strong attachment to and dependence upon God (Deuteronomy 10:12-22). This distinctiveness of people, if not strong attachment and dependence, continue even into the captivity, where the apocryphal addition to Esther speaks again of the distinctiveness of God’s chosen race: “For Almighty God hath turned to joy unto them the day, wherein the chosen people should have perished.” (Esther 16:21 KJVA)
Again, “race” in the Bible speaks of a distinctive “kind” of people, descendants of a common father. Peter seems to show this in advance of 1 Pet 2:9 with his comment in 1:17, “and if you call on Him as Father, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.” We are a chosen race if we have in common this heavenly Father.
Let me make three points of application with illustration:
1. Until we fully embrace our identity as a part of God’s chosen race as obedient children, we will never make sense of the Christian life. We continue to be painfully aware of racial differences as determined sociologically, but painfully unaware of the kind of distinctiveness that ought to be honored and preserved as God’s people. We show this in our marriage patterns, where more consternation arises from the joining of people with different skin color than does the joining of two people whose spiritual fathers are antithetically opposed to one another.
2. Until we accept our God-given place as God-redeemed outsiders, elect exiles (1 Pet 1:1), we will never adequately proclaim His praises. When Muslims become our next-door neighbors, we wonder what “they” are doing “here.” But Peter’s truth expressed several times is that they are not the outsiders; we are. We are the aliens, the strangers, the sojourners who are seeking to share our way of life with the insiders of this world. We are not to resist the infiltration of “different” people into our cocoons. We are, by race, the infiltrators.
3. Until we understand that we are no more “children of men,” but rather “children of the Heavenly Father,” we will not experience our greatest comfort. Others have no Father like ours. By comparison, it is as though all the world is orphaned, going to bed at night untucked with no story told and no prayers prayed. But we have a Father who never leaves us alone. What a blessed comfort to be a chosen race that can rightfully claim to be “children of the heavenly Father.”