A Christendom mentality expects the world to be like us and share our values. And it protests when the world is not like us. Often Christians complain about the treatment of Christianity in the wider culture. They bemoan legislation that does not reﬂect Christian values. They lament the representation of Christianity in the media. They decry politicians who profess themselves atheists. We do not welcome any of these developments. But none of them surprise us.
We cannot expect the world to be like us. Indeed we are surprised whenever we do see the culture conforming to Christian values or reacting positively to the church. This is perhaps something the Free churches can teach the Anglicans in England. Part of our story is persecution and marginalisation. We are not part of the Establishment, and often in our history we have been persecuted by the Establishment. Anglicanism often lacks this collective memory. It really is a surprise to Anglicans to ﬁnd themselves marginalised because they are used to being part of the Establishment. Yet often the Free churches have sought to suppress this memory, seeking respectability. Many of the grand Nonconformist chapels built on the high street were an attempt to say, ‘We’ve arrived; we’re part of mainstream society.’ The tradition of non-conformist dissent has been replaced by middle-class conformity. We need to discover or recover the sense that if this year we are not imprisoned, then it has been a good year in which by the grace of God we have got off lightly.
It was ever thus. In 2:4–8 Peter says that believers are ‘like living stones’ ‘being built into a spiritual house’ with Jesus as the cornerstone or capstone. We are living stones like Christ the living Stone. But notice how Christ the Stone is described. He is ‘rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him’ (2:4). He is ‘the stone the builders rejected [which] has become the capstone’ (2:7). He is the ‘stone that causes men to stumble’ (2:8). Peter is following Jesus himself in using Psalm 118:22 to describe his rejection by humanity (Mark 12:10). Jesus is rejected by people, but chosen by God.
The cornerstone is the stone to which all the other stones are aligned. The Stone to which we as living stones are aligned is the Stone that has been rejected by human beings, but is honoured by God.
So we can expect human rejection and divine honour to be our experience as well.