If you have friends whom you have known throughout the entirety of your life, you really have something special. Remember your high school pals and classmates? You did so many things together, and at that time you could not imagine that those friendships would ever fade or be lost.
Then you went to college, or to the military, or to a career. You met new people, and the old friends faded away one by one. And were it not for the modern phenomenon of social media, you might never be connected at all with the high school gang.
And then there is the break from friends that so often accompanies falling in love. No longer are you one of the boys or a part of the sisterhood in quite the same fashion. Just as you saw others before you drift away, so too it happened with you. You were moving on to a new dimension of life.
Over the years you likely moved in and out of varied social interest or cooperative ventures of business or pleasure. For a while it might have been sports pursuits or a community service club, but then new jobs, location changes, or simply the passing of time brought about new networks and experiences.
Relationships come and go with the seasons of life. But above all human relationships is the desire to have a connection to God — a desire to fill what Blaise Pascal spoke of as an “infinite abyss that can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”
In all religions over the years, the place where mankind has gone to fill this hole is to a temple — a place where God and man would meet. This was true in Judaism as well. The Temple was a grand place, but apart from God’s presence inhabiting it, it was a big stack of dead stones.
I have visited some of the grandest structures of religion in my lifetime: the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque in Turkey, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, the Cathedral de Notre Dame, Il Duomo di Firenze in Florence, the National Cathedral, St. Paul’s in London, Westminster Abbey, St. Patrick’s in NYC, York Minster in Yorkshire, the Mormon Tabernacle, St. Giles in Scotland, Old St. Mary’s in Cambridge, and the Sacré-Cœur de Paris. Though beautiful and impressive, apart from the living God, they are merely walls of dead stones.
But Peter speaks of a different sort of temple (or “spiritual house” in the NIV). This is one that has Jesus as its living cornerstone, and believers joined with him as living stones.
2:4 – As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house < a temple > to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”[from Isaiah 28:16]
7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”[from Psalm 118:22]
8 and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”[from Isaiah 8:14] They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.
When it speaks here of “coming to him” … of coming to Jesus, this is not the simple moment of salvation / ask Jesus into my heart sort of thing. The words used originally here speak of an intimate relationship. In relationship with Christ, we are a part of something more than a club or association with merely a membership card for our wallets; we are a living member of the very work of God in the world.
These living stones have a serving and ministering capacity to perform, as priests and as living sacrifices. It involves a full-time role of being God’s people before the world, and bringing the world to him.
This may not be popular. The chief cornerstone will never be undone, but He has been rejected and despised; and we may expect the same from those who stumble over the immoveable Rock.
It is interesting that Peter — “the rock,” and the one upon whom Christ metaphorically said the church would be built — is pointing to Jesus as the true rock and foundational cornerstone.
So the church of Jesus Christ is not like other clubs or organizations that may come or go, depending upon their usefulness within the seasons of life. No, the church is the main thing, the main idea of what it is ALL about.
So, in pointing you to a vital relationship with Jesus and with the life of the local expression of the church, we are not just encouraging your participation in a nice, additional component of life to embrace when you have time in the otherwise busy schedule of life. No, we are calling you to be a daily and functioning part (a living stone) of the biggest, most important, eternally-enduring main idea of what life itself is about. It is the visible expression of priority #1 of life.