1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture:
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,
“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”
“A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense.”
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
My first Call out of the seminary was to a small suburb on the north side of Salt Lake City which was 92% LDS and in which lived a fair number of the LDS hierarchy. It was an intensely Mormon place. Living in a community dominated by the LDS presented multiple challenges and blessings. The LDS, if you are not familiar with them, have some distinctive practices and cultural markers. There are dietary distinctives. They abstain from alcohol and tobacco. They will not drink coffee or tea. While they do not wear distinctive outerwear, they do dress modestly. This is both a sense of modesty and because they wear very distinctive undergarments which are not to be seen by those outside the LDS church. We rather counted this a blessing. Not long after we moved to Oregon my wife returned from the grocery store on a warm summer day and declared that most of the human population really should observe the BYU dress code.
Of course, one does not have to live in such a community long or dig very deep to find that there are Mormons who do not strictly adhere to these practices. But these practices generally do distinguish them from the larger society. What do you think distinguishes a Christian from the larger society? 50 years ago, North America was a Christian society and so this question might not have even been asked. But in the intervening decades something has happened. Our American society is not so obviously Christian as it used to be.
So, we ask what makes a Christian different? Peter seems to be asking that question in the reading we are given to read today. The first Christians were noted for their rejection of a permissive sexual ethic in which the strong abused the weak. They expanded the scope of the people whom they supported and loved to include anyone who was a follower of Jesus. They valued people regardless of class and wealth in a way that the Roman world did not. A slave was just as much a child of God as any wealthy man.
Peter calls us a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, set apart to proclaim the excellence of the one who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light. The post-Corona church has an opportunity to rethink and reimagine our fellowship and our life together. Somethings have not changed in this time, others have. What makes us Christian? We need to ask that question of ourselves now. Study your scriptures. Listen to Jesus as he defines the Christian life. To what holiness and good is he calling you and the rest of us? Pray for discernment.