“Holy” Reborn of God
In her new song “Born This Way”, Lady Gaga celebrates life. The song says, “Don’t be a drag, just be a queen. Whether you’re broke or evergreen, you’re black, white, beige, chola descent, you’re Lebanese, you’re orient. Whether life’s disabilities left you outcast, bullied, or teased, rejoice and love yourself today, ‘cause baby you were born this way…” At one level, she is right, we are born in God’s image. On another level, her song celebrates what is not right and normalizes pain and suffering by calling them “good”. How can we celebrate sickness, deformity, disease, and even death? Christianity presents a radical truth: rather than simply accepting suffering and pain, the Bible says it ought not be, but that in Jesus Christ there is the real possibility of being re-born, of being part of God’s restored world where pain and suffering no longer exist. 1 Peter 1:13–2:3 looks at being re-born. The passage describes what the new birth looks like as it changes our thinking, living and loving.
How does the new birth affect our thinking? 1 Peter 1:13–14
Having received new life in Christ our thinking is affected as we set our eyes on the gospel, the truth that there is victory over pain, suffering, sin and death through faith in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. There is a coming final victory as God renews his creation and all that is wrong in the world will be made right.
How does the new birth affect our living? 1 Peter 1:15–21
Having received new life in Christ our living is affected as we increasingly become more like Jesus, like the One who has called us. Peter quotes Leviticus 11:44 where God says to Israel: “Be holy, because I am holy.” First, we must ask: “What does it mean that God is holy?” The Bible uses images of light, fire, purity, and beauty to describe the holiness of God. The Bible also tells us that man cannot come near this holy God because of sin. However, for believers, for those who have experienced new birth in Christ, the Bible says we are in fact growing in holiness, daily becoming more like Christ. Secondly, we ask: “What does holy living look like?” Living a holy life is described in the Ten Commandments; it is theology applied. It is honoring God by honoring parents, living honestly, valuing God’s image, protecting life, keeping promises, enjoying and encouraging the gifts that God has given to others. Finally, we wonder: “Has Peter forgotten grace?” The answer is: No. The new birth does not send us back to keeping the law on our own, but animates us to live a holy life. Our new birth is a source of joy because of what God has completed and accomplished on our behalf. Because God has redeemed us from our empty way of living, because our Holy God has paid our debt, we now live wholly for God.
How does the new birth affect our love for others? 1 Peter 1:22–2:3
Having received the new life that Christ has given us, we can now love others selflessly because our holy God has loved us first. Because God loved us unconditionally, we can love each other with “no strings attached”. We depend on and never give up on each other. We can love other believers well as we stay connected to our source of nourishment, Christ (2:2), and remember that though life on earth fades like the grass that withers, God’s eternal word assures us of a restored, renewed, eternal life with him.