Household Matters and Hospitality: “A Spiritual Blueprint”
Come to God, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, and to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:4-5 (NRSV)).
There is a relatively popular television show called “Divine Design,” in which the host demonstrates her remarkable skill in re-vamping uninspired rooms into masterpieces of interior design. Our General Epistle authors, too, (especially 1 Peter’s author) demonstrate good “eyes for design,” but in an entirely different and infinitely more important arena: the design of the Christian life—real “Divine design!” 1 Peter bears witness to God’s work in the world in bringing believers together to build a holy community that is greater than the sum of its parts. As I read 1 Peter 2:1-10, I imagine the author surveying God’s artistry of transformation unfolding within the lives of house churches: from the gutting of rotten, crumbling boards of “guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander,” to the masonry of holiness, self-sacrifice, and mercy.
The phrase that jumps out at me related to this passage is verse five’s “let yourselves be built.” The author could have written, “build yourselves;” in fact, I’m sure many of us are tempted to think it should have been written “build yourselves,” but it wasn’t. It says, clearly “let yourselves be built” (some ancient manuscripts also state, “you yourselves are being built”). Could it really be the case that true holiness requires not industriousness, but surrender? In a word, yes. 1 Peter reaffirms that this spiritual household construction project, if you will, is only successful because God is in control. How often do we find ourselves today living and acting as if we are the chief agents of holiness? As if we generate the grace that allows the church to grow? When we rely on the products of our own willpower to manufacture our sense of self-worth, we too often crumble under the weight of crushed expectations and unfulfilled intentions. The fruit of such labor is not “living stone;” it is simply dead weight.
What unfolds in this passage is an example of the dynamic between, what a colleague of mine has deemed, “true grace” and “true grit.” On the one hand, it is to recognize the truth written in another New Testament letter, Ephesians 2:8: “for it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing: it is the gift of God.” On the other hand, it is the determination to bear the fruit of God’s grace through one’s actions and disposition: “beloved, do not imitate what is evil but imitate what is good” (1 John 11a). Simply put: we are called to celebrate the grace of God’s transformative work and to demonstrate its effects in all aspects of life.
Which brings me to the concept behind the “Spiritual Blueprint” illustration I’ve designed. If we, as “living stones,” are being built together into a divine inhabitation, and if we, as each individual stone, contain the stuff from which such a structure is made, then it is worthwhile for us to pay attention to how we are being built. Can you see the marks of God’s design at work in your circles, your congregations, your homes, your workplaces, your neighborhoods, your families, or even yourselves? I invite you to make use of this illustration as a devotional exercise through which you may identify, room by room, if you will, the ways in which God is building you into a “spiritual house,” and/or the ways in which you bear witness to through word or deed to God’s grace-filled “construction project.” I’ve completed a blueprint below filled with examples in the life of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); I look forward to seeing the ways in which you chart evidence of God’s work in your midst as well!