The phrase “peculiar people” which 1 Peter uses to describe God’s people is sometimes interpreted to mean “a special people” or “a unique possession of God”. However, in the eyes of many people, those who call themselves followers of Jesus are peculiar, or odd. When you think about the way they think and act, this is hardly surprising.
1Peter 2:9-10 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
Being labeled a ‘peculiar’ person is not usually a compliment, but it isn’t necessarily an insult. In the case of being a peculiar people who have been set aside to demonstrate the life of Christ on this earth, the label is a compliment. The paradoxes of being a Christian are these: we must become poor to be rich, we must become the least to become the greatest, we must work to rest, we must mourn to be happy, power is found through our weaknesses, and to live we must die to ourselves. That does sound peculiar, but it is the way of God.
The way of God is much different from the way of the world, and unbelievers do not and cannot understand why anyone would want to live the way believers are required to live. However, believers want to live as God instructs because they know it is the best way and they will benefit if they walk in the steps God has ordained for them.
The Christian life is comparatively opposite a non-Christian life. To the world, the life of a child of God is upside down, but to the Christian, the way of the world is upside down. Look at the paradoxes of Christian living. Jesus teaches us that to live we must die. Whoever heard of such a thing? He says that a grain of corn put into the ground has to die before it produces a stalk of corn. That is the way of life. To be reborn into the Kingdom of God we must die out to self. To gain eternal life a person must give up his hold on his temporary earthly life, both spiritually and physically. For the spirit part of us to be rebirthed as a child of God, we have to give up our carnal, worldly lifestyle. Then, at death, we exchange our fleshly body for a new body to live in heaven. We find this in Matthew 16:25 when Jesus says, “If any of you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me. For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it.”
Another paradox of Christian living is becoming poor to be rich. What a concept! Of course, this isn’t speaking of money. Jesus taught his followers (Matthew 5:3) that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are poor in spirit, or who come to God realizing they are without hope and are nothing without Him. Then he goes on in verse four to say that we are happy when we mourn. How can this be? When we come to our Heavenly Father sad because we see our own sinfulness and unworthiness, opening our hearts to him, we find happiness in His grace and mercy applied to our lives, changing us.
Still another seemingly upside down way of living is the act of being the least to become the greatest (Matthew 20:25-28). In these verses, Jesus reminded his followers that He came to earth to serve, not to be served. This was a hard concept to understand because these people knew Jesus was the Son of God come to earth to be King. They had to learn that His Kingdom was spiritual, not worldly. We all have to realize that, while He was and is the King of kings, he literally gave His life for us so that we could have life. That is serving at the highest level. Now He expects the same of us. To become great in the Kingdom of God, we are to serve one another, preferring one another. That is unlike anything we learn in the world’s system where ambitious people grasp and clutch at anything in front of them to be promoted to a higher level. However, we understand that through grasping, we lose all, and through surrendering everything, we gain all.
How about the one that says power is found in our weakness? Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:10, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” Yes, it’s true. This is because our strength is not in ourselves, but in God. When we submit to God’s ways, He becomes our strength. He wants us to lean on Him, cast our cares on Him, and trust Him, not ourselves. These concepts are incomprehensible to the world’s way of thinking, but to the Christian, it makes sense. That is because we are not our own, but belong to our Creator who loves us beyond measure.
No, we are not a run-of-the-mill people who live day to day, traipsing through life doing the best we can on our own cognizance. We are a peculiar people, moving through life with a purpose, a plan, and divine guidance and protection.
Remember the story of Esther? This young Jewish woman ended up in a position to save her entire Jewish nation because she submitted to God and risked her life helping her people. Wicked Haman planned to wipe out the Jews because of one who refused to bow to him, reserving his honor for his God. Haman could not understand a people who would risk everything for a God he didn’t know. In Esther 3:8, Haman speaks to the king of them: “There is a certain race of people scattered through all the provinces of your empire. Their laws are different from those of any other nation, and they refuse to obey even the laws of the king. So it is not in the king’s interest to let them live.”
The values of worldly people are opposite those of Godly people. Worldly people value power, money, success, and recognition. They have learned that money gives them power and recognition, and money comes from success. They admire those who are popular, and those with celebrity status are almost worshiped in our society. Having beautiful homes, expensive clothes and fancy cars are of utmost importance to them. These values are replaced when a person in born into the Kingdom of God.
This group of people realizes money, power and popularity are temporary, and they learn to value things that are eternal. This doesn’t mean God’s people can’t have money or success. Many of God’s people are wealthy and successful. It just means they understand that these things are the sand the Bible speaks about and can shift and crumble. They know the value of building on the rock that will stand securely forever. They see the stability of living for God, the Creator of the universe. They are not controlled by power, success, comfort, or recognition, things that are built on circumstance and can change at any moment. They understand the concept of a caring, powerful, forgiving, loving God who withholds no blessing from His children. And these blessings are not always understood by worldly people. This, then, causes them to look peculiar to others who do not know God.
This peculiar group of people who follow Jesus shares the qualities that made Him the most talked about man who ever lived. They are known for giving of themselves to others, both money and time. They are known for standing up for righteousness when those around them submit to the evils surrounding them. They can and do uphold moral ideals when immorality seems to reign in entertainment, business, and lifestyles. These people are strong when others find no strength to overcome pressures of life. They are joyful when life is hard. They rejoice in the middle of persecution and praise their God in the midst of every storm. God loves His peculiar people!