Having affirmed all that God has done to save (1 Peter 1:3, etc), Peter now turns to those who have been rescued. Such people are those who “call on a Father who judges impartially” (1:17) and who, as a result, live with certain inclinations.
The “call” Peter describes has a couple of layers. There is the reaching out to make a connection (common in our phrase, ‘Call me’), and then there is a ‘religious’ undertone, given that Peter uses a word frequently linked with appeals to divinity. The stories where people ‘call out’ to God because of need or delight–think of these. The apostle is drawing on the experience of his readers, knowing that they are people who call out to God; he also emphasizes that they are connected with a particular God.
The God they adhere to “judges impartially.” That first word can trip us up, and make us wince: “Here we go again, with a judgmental deity,” some say, having had their fill either of an angry, ornery god, or experience with angry, ornery followers. Nevertheless, that is not Peter’s emphasis. His stress is rather on “impartially,” which describes how God carries out an evaluation. We are accustomed to judgments that are subjective and rendered after consulting incomplete evidence; Peter tells us that when this God speaks as judge, His conclusions are based on knowing everything that is relevant and acting in a way that is good for all.
But even then, Peter’s interest in God’s judging is secondary. The matter of first importance is that by calling on this God (the one who judges impartially–and therefore, can be fully trusted to speak, and speak for, the truth), rather than some other alternative, these people are indicating their intention to live in His way. Such living is characterized by a measure of fear–another surprise from Peter, until we recall how the apostle has described God. Strong enough to defeat sin and death, rich enough to provide an ample inheritance for every family member, big enough to be seen throughout history, and holy–would not such a one rightly be feared, especially when compared with the available alternatives? It’s like finally seeing the ocean after a lifetime of experience limited to the backyard kiddie pool: that big body of water there is not only beautiful, but overwhelming, awesome. It does, if we’re honest, strike fear. And yet, the waves beckon; fear does not keep us at a distance. Remember: the same God who evokes fear is also the One on whom we call, the One to whom we can be linked. Fear has its place, but it does not push out all other emotions or assessments. Instead it reminds us (at least) that the others vying for attention are not in the same league.
You weren’t redeemed by perishable things… Peter continues, tipping his hand about those options. That is, you might be distracted by the lure of wealth, might consider hitching your wagon to stars you can hold or buy–but don’t be taken in. While these things glitter, they do not last long , nor is their value permanent. Case in point? Walk into any Florida tourist shop and you’ll see cowries bagged by the pound for a quick sale. At one point these seashells served as money; now, they adorn light switch plates, or gather dust on shelves.
You, Peter asserts, are linked inextricably with Jesus, whose poured-out life gives value surpassing the gold standard, silver futures, pork bellies or cowries. Faith and hope are your currencies, because in God–this God–you trust. So carry on with your life here, but “as strangers,” noticing what occurs around you, taking part in some respects, but always remembering where your home is, and with whom you are connected.