I pass them at the 29 km mark, pressing on toward the finish line. Horns honk, people cheer, and a man in a wheelchair sits just outside the runners’ lane, holding out his hand to high-five them as they pass. A woman not competing in the marathon jogs along for a brief stretch, calling words of encouragement to her friend.
I wonder what it is like to be among the cloud of witnesses who have gone before us? Do they watch and clap and cheer us on as we press on toward the finish line they have already crossed?
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus. . . ” (Heb 12:1-2)
The runners travel light. My long coat and the purse slung over my shoulder feel heavy.
When Jesus’ burden is light (Matt 11:30), and his commands are not burdensome (1 John 5:3), why do I so often feel like I’ve got bricks in my backpack?
It’s not just sin that slows us down. It can be too many good things in the bag. Voices from the past. Even misunderstandings of the words of life.
I look again, dig deeper into words that feel too heavy.
Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Pet 1:13-16)
In Greek, these four verses hold only two commands. One is an active imperative (“you do this”) and one is a passive imperative (“you have this done to you.”) The rest are all words that tell us how it is to be done (participles) or statements of what will take place (future indicatives).
I shed the coat, leave the bricks by the side of the path as I read the words again.
Therefore [because God knew you and chose you and his Holy Spirit makes you holy (v. 2); and because you have been given new birth into a living hope (v. 3) and into an inheritance that cannot be taken away from you (v. 4); and because you are protected in the midst of life’s craziness by God’s own power until the day when you finally receive the what you’ve been waiting for (v. 5-9) and because what you’re receiving is so incredible that angels keep peeking over, trying to catch a glimpse, to understand when and how and why God is doing all this for you. . . ]
[how?] preparing your minds for action,
fix your hope completely on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. [the one active imperative, or command]
[how?] As obedient children, not being conformed to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance,
like the one who called you is holy, so be made holy in your whole way of life [the passive imperative – what is done to us]
[on what basis?] because it is written, “You shall be holy, because I am holy.” [. . . the future indicative, the promise of what will be]
Did you see it, the one command? Set your hope fully on the gift, not half on the gift and half on your own limping efforts. Stake it all on grace, keep grace in full view, receive it and live in it and let it shape you, and you will be made holy.
Peter’s choice of words underlines the truth tucked into the grammar. The two verbs in v. 15 and v 16, often both translated “be holy” are two different verbs. The second, the promise, is eimi, “to be. “You shall be holy.” The first is ginomai, “to become, to be made, to be born, to be created.” “Be made holy.” We can no more make ourselves holy than we can create ourselves or cause ourselves to be born.
Maybe that’s why we’re invited (commanded!) to trade in trying to make ourselves perfect for reveling in the truth that we will be made perfect.
So go ahead. Lighten your load. Cross trying to make yourself perfect off today’s do-list. And tomorrow’s. And the next day’s. It’s not your job. Yours is to fix your hope fully on this grace.
Enjoy your lighter day, my friends!