In his first letter to the faithful, our first pope boldly mixes a set of metaphors, which taken together give us a clear picture of the end and means of Christian life (1 Pet. 2:1-10).
Whatever our previous life may have been, St. Peter counsels, we are to leave it behind and become like “newborn babes.” If we wish to “grow unto salvation,” we are in need of “the rational milk” that only Christ (divine Logos) can provide.
As our Lord himself taught, if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven, we need to be “born again” (Jn. 3.3), and to “become as little children” (Mt. 18:3).
While these images certainly stress the virtue of humility, they also signify something more. In order to achieve the humility enabling us to entrust ourselves to Christ as babes, a vigorous (and very mature) sort of action is needed.
Since the world in which we live is mired in “malice,” “guile,” “dissimulations,” “envies,” and “detractions” (1 Pet. 2:1), it is impossible for us to drink the “rational milk” of Christ, which is “without guile,” unless we actively reject the world and its ways.
As creatures of habit, we cannot help being shaped by the malice with which we are presently surrounded. Rejecting the world therefore requires a rejection of our very selves, insofar as those selves have been steeped in “carnal desires which war against the soul” (1 Pet. 2:11).
To shift metaphors slightly, becoming newborn babes requires “stripping [ourselves] of the old man and his deeds,” and “putting on the new, him who is renewed unto knowledge, according to the image of him that created him” (Col. 3:9-10).
If we desire salvation or health of soul, we must be willing to die to ourselves; to hate our own souls as we have come to know them (Jn. 12:24-25), in order to receive new souls, restored to that purity with which they can once more reflect the beauty of their Creator.
Hard as this teaching is, there is more. To reject the ways of the world is not only to reject our own ways, but also to court the rejection of the world we have rejected.
Adding a few metaphors into the mix, if we wish to be “living stones built up, a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices,” we must join ourselves to Jesus Christ, “the stone which the builders rejected.” If they rejected the corner stone, chances are they will reject the house on which it is built.
To sum up: Christian life entails our rejection of the world and of our worldly selves, which in turn leads to our rejection by the world.
All three rejections are painful, but each also has the virtue of uniting us to Christ. Once we have made them, and “have tasted that the Lord is sweet,” we are then in a position to “declare his virtues” to a guileful world, inviting others to share in the sweet rejection that leads to eternal salvation.
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