In the early 1970’s during the Jesus Movement anyone with a King James Bible (KJV) and a dictionary who could explain what the 400 year-old language meant was considered a Bible scholar. Some of the wording used in that old translation was so strange to our ears it was like we were reading a foreign language.
One of the verses we quoted in those days from the KJV was found in I Peter 2:19, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” Words like “shew”, and the unique spelling of marvelous were different, but understandable. What we misread then and is still being misread by some today was the word “peculiar”. In our modern context it really doesn’t mean peculiar at all.
400 years ago the word “peculiar” meant “a people for His possession”. It meant someone set aside for someone’s pleasure. In fact, only the KJV translation used this word to describe the meaning of the text. Other more modern and readable translations use the word this way, “a people for God’s own possession”, NASB, “God’s special possession”, NIV, “his own special people”, NKJV, and in the NLT, “God’s very own possession”.
Today, the word peculiar means something that is odd, strange or unusual. I have met people who have used I Peter 2:19 as a personal permission slip to justify strange and culturally awkward behavior. The original intent of the word was never used to give us license to live a life defined by oddity. It was used to affirm that we belong to God.
We have the honor to live as God’s chosen people with the mandate to carry the supernatural presence of heaven into the nations of the world. As we step into cultures starved for the love of God, it would be wise to consider how we are seen by those we want to reach. This is the kind of wisdom Paul exhibited when he was in Athens and introduced the Athenians to the “unknown god”.
Since God has redeemed us back to His original intent, our lives and demeanor in culture should exhibit a lifestyle that makes people want to exchange their unredeemed lives for the Life they see in us. Few people want to exchange what they have for something that is culturally peculiar, but something wonderful is a different story.