The church can be a mighty fortress, or it can be a crumbling ruin. Too often in the current climate, we think that the church’s physical structure must be paramount and luxurious for the world to come and see the beauty and purpose of God. However, God builds the church with the people of God. All of it depends on the people that make up the structure. Upon the people of the church, a building is built to shine for the people of the community. People will look upon the church community and determine whether this collection of people will give life or take energy from its neighbors. Christ intends for the church to be a lighthouse, and we must allow God to build us into that mighty fortress. However, if we take our direction and power from anything outside of God, we become a ruinous shack that breaks down and pulls our community down with us.
As we look at Peter’s instructions to the church, we find guidance on how we can be made into the fortress of God as a church and church members.
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,” 8 and “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. 11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Pe 2:1–11.
Everything begins with purification. The Kingdom of God has no room for deceit, hypocrisy, envy, or slander. These items introduce cracks into the bricks that prevent the building from establishing a solid connection with one another and the community. We cannot accept a little bit to promote growth or to achieve a better result. This negotiation introduces impurities, leading to broken trust and hurt within our communities. As Peter states that we must be a church that “longs for the pure spiritual milk.” Pure scripture reading without all the filler our society brings into the Word of God. Both conservative and liberal readings of Scripture, used to bring an agenda forward, have no place in the community of God. Still, instead, we must get back to the core of becoming pure and focusing on loving God and our neighbor. With our focus on God’s purpose for the church, we allow ourselves to eliminate the impurities and build up the Kingdom of God.
Once purified, the church readies itself to approach Jesus. Jesus is the cornerstone that the church builds upon and grows. For the blocks of the church to become useful, they must first approach the building process as followers of Jesus, making ourselves emulate how Jesus lived and ready ourselves for the same type of refinement that following Jesus brings. This continual refining process ensures that cracks do not form and that the building may guide the community to Jesus. Occasionally, the blocks may begin to think they are foundational and that the other blocks should look more like themselves. Nobody comes before Jesus, the church must remember that we need to look at everything we do, and if anything is not pointing to the love of Christ, then it must be tossed into the refining fire. Fissures and breaks will form and taint the entire building if we neglect this task. The blocks must constantly guide people to becoming more like Jesus.
As we engage with the work of the Kingdom of God, guiding people to Jesus, we understand that we have been picked to do this work by God. Like any good builder, God looked through the materials and ensured that the proper materials were selected among many. We can make excuses about not participating or sharing the Gospel. Still, Peter reminds us that God selected us to carry out this task and that no one should think of themselves as “not up to the task” because God does not make mistakes when selecting the building materials for the church. God wants us to bring light to the world, and as God’s selected block to build the church, we must ensure that we keep the block sturdy and ready for God’s tasks and purposes.
Peter concludes this section by reminding us that God calls us to remain focused on the task and glorify God in all circumstances. People may look at the church and its building, but God needs the heart of the people of God to remain focused on doing good and sharing the goodness of God, for God chooses to build the church with the building blocks that were hand selected for the task of building the church of God. This task is for you and me to become holy, share God’s message, and guide the world to the light as God’s chosen people. Let us remind ourselves daily that a disciple’s task is building the church for the glory of God. Let us make ourselves into a robust structure free from defects and bring light into the darkness.