“Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. ” (I Peter 2:10)
Identity. We all need a sense of individual and communal identity-a knowledge of “who we are.” In Christ, our identity has changed. We have transitioned from being “just one in the crowd” to being a special people: a people of God who have received mercy.
In talking to Christians about their new identity, Peter draws upon a concept that is presented in the book of Exodus: the Hebrew people delivered by the mighty hand of God out of Egyptian slavery and brought into the promised land. In Exodus 19:4-6, God tells Moses that this newly delivered group of people will be formed into a “kingdom of priests.” The job of the Israelites, once delivered, is to be God's witness and “intercessor” for surrounding nations. The witness is that God “hears the cries” of his people, has mercy, and delivers them.
Similarly, Peter tells the newly forming Christian communities that their identity is one of a priest-one who is the link between the human and the divine. The mark of this priesthood, is mercy. The people of God are those who have received the mercy of God and are therefore witnesses to God's love for humanity. As “priests,' Peter is teaching these early Christian communities to live in such a way as to show this mercy by way of good deeds and “good lives” among the Pagans.
What does this mean for us? Simply this: because we have been the recipients of God's grace in mercy, we, too, should live lives that reflect this mercy. We are not agents of God's condemnation and judgment, nor is our job to “convert” people to a religious system of rules and regulations. Rather, as a “kingdom of priests,” we are witnesses through our lives of God's mercy. As such, the point is not to live in the dark ways of sin (deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander), but rather to live in the light of God's grace. Even though we will be criticized perhaps, but the good deeds will be undeniable , and God will be glorified (I Peter 2:12).