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“You Must” vs. “You Will Become”

1 Peter 1:16

Is there a fundamental difference between “Do this” and “you will do this.”  I find it interesting that in v. 16 the tense of the verb is you will be holy because I am holy.  It is the future tense rather than the imperative.  Intrigued by this I went back to the ten commandments in the Septuagint  (Exodus 20:1-17) and discovered that those are also in the future tense rather than the imperative;  “you will have no other gods before me” rather than “have no other gods before me,” and on down the list. 

Now I may be splitting hairs in my ignorance and creating a false dichotomy where there is none, but…what if there is a difference between the future and the imperative tense?  The imperative seems to be an ultimatum given by a harsh dictator — “do this or die”.  The future seems to be a promise from a loving father — as if God is saying, “One way or the other, through the process of knowing me, you will become this because it is the ideal way of living.”  This idea of promise seems to coincide with the rest of the passage.  Peter instructed his readers to set their hope (an imperative, by the way) on the gracious gift that is revealed in Jesus Christ.  What is the gift?  It is that the Father, who shows no partiality, has promised to bring about transformation in our lives and empower us to make the journey from the slavery of self-centered desires to the freedom of other-oreinted love: to be holy just like he is.  “And God demonstrated his love for us that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) 

We are not forced into the slavery of a dictatorial ruler who delights in stealing our fun and pounding us into mindless “holy drones.”  Rather, we are invited by our loving Father to follow in his footsteps and experience real life, salvation, that comes through living fully for the other.

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