There’s an old adage: “The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.” That was like a mantra for me in school. It’s meant a lot of things to a lot of people, but I’ve found it to be a good reminder that there’s always more to learn and that, even some of what I do know, I don’t know very well. In fact, I’ve all too often discovered in my life that I d0n’t know what I’m talking about in the first place.

Now, that probably doesn’t give you much confidence to keep on reading this devotional! But, I’m convinced that the basic logic behind “The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know” is wholly true to the Christian life. In our passage for today, Peter tells his fellow Christians that they should long for “pure, spiritual milk,” so that they might be able to “grow into salvation.” It’s heavily metaphorical language, but I think the gist of it is clear: We really do have a lot to learn about Jesus and what it means to die and rise again with him.

And so, in today’s devotional, I’d like to share with you all one area where I’ve found God leading me in my own growth these past couple of months.


Dead and Risen God, we are newborn infants who long for pure, spiritual milk. Guide us by your Word and your Holy Spirit today, so that in your light we might see light, and in your truth, we might find freedom, and in your will, we might truly discover peace through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


1 Peter 2:2-8a

Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation — if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture: “See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner,” and “A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall.”


Audrey Assad- Your Peace Will Make Us One Lyrics

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord
You are speaking truth?to?power, You are?laying down our swords
Replanting every vineyard?’til a brand new wine is poured
Your peace will make us one
I’ve seen You in our home fires burning with a quiet light
You are mothering and feeding in the wee hours of the night
Your gentle love is patient, You will never fade or tire
Your peace will make us one

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Your peace will make us one

In the beauty of the lilies, You were born across the sea
With a glory in Your bosom that is still transfiguring
Dismantling our empires ’til each one of us is free
Your peace will make us one


You might recognize some of that chorus above. It’s straight from Julia Ward Howe’s Battle Hymn of the Republic. In fact, Audrey Assad modeled her song, Your Peace Will Make Us One, off of Howe’s lyrics and even set it to the same tune. (If you’re curious, that tune is called John Brown’s Body.) It’s a clever bit of musicianship that’s more complex than it at first seems.

A 19th-century abolitionist, Julia Ward Howe penned her Battle Hymn on the eve of the Civil War as something of a call to arms for the Union cause. Though rarely sung, her last verse is worth remembering:

     In the beauty of the lilies, Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me.
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.

The language of transfiguration is borrowed straight from Matthew 17, when Jesus goes up onto a mountain and is bathed in — or transfigured by — the glory of God. Howe’s text insists that such transfiguring is still going on in us today. Jesus died to make everyone holy, so we should likewise die to make everyone free. After all, she says, God is marching on, so we better form up and join the — quite literal — fight.

There are some strong parallels here with 1 Peter. For starters, the notion of change or transfiguration is one that Peter echoes heavily when he describes Christians as “growing into salvation.” Howe knew she was championing a major sea change for almost everybody. But, sea change or not, it was the right thing — the holy thing — to do. Peter’s argument is the same. What the world rejected, persecuted, and ultimately killed, God turned into the cornerstone of his spiritual house and his holy priesthood. In fact, Peter even suggests that we’re not just to live like Christ; we’re to die like him, too.

First Peter is a book written to a group of young Christians who are suffering persecution for their faith. They’re being derided, scorned, laughed at — maybe even physically abused and killed. In verse 11, Peter refers to these folks as “aliens and exiles” in their own towns. They’ve become second class citizens simply on account of what they believe, but Peter encourages them to take heart. This isn’t the end. It’s not even reality. They might feel like the dirt beneath people’s shoes, but in reality, they’re the cornerstone of a new and holy priesthood, set in place by God right next to Jesus. God’s resurrection life, Peter assures us, is more powerful than persecution and death. It promises that one day God will vindicate the faithful, not by letting them win the next time around but by revealing to all how sacrificing ourselves and dying for others is the real power in the world, just as it always has been.

This is where Audrey Assad’s version gets complex, for in her borrowing from Howe’s original Battle Hymn we hear both harmony and discord. The key lies in Assad’s turn on that last verse. God is still transfiguring us, she says. The end of slavery and the Civil War did not mark the end of our growth as Christians or the height of our understanding of death and resurrection. We still have much to learn about life and holiness and freedom.

To be sure, Assad isn’t criticizing Howe’s abolitionism. She’s expanding it, even to the point where she laments the fact that violence and war were needed to achieve it. Assad’s is a hymn that understands freedom as ultimately the freedom from violence altogether, hence her substitution of “peace” for Howe’s more militaristic “march.” During this day and age, when a pandemic reminds us all that death really is our one true enemy and the injustice Howe was fighting against continues to plague us and literally kill us, as it did recently with Ahmaud Arbery, I am increasingly drawn to Assad’s call to peace and her undying hope that God will make us one without resorting to violence.

I know waving the flag of nonviolence is risky and extremely complicated, but I believe God has been trying to teach us this lesson from the very beginning. It’s the only way I can make sense of the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection — a power Peter tells us we’re supposed to embrace and mimic as the chosen people of God. Resurrection life is the antithesis of death and all its weapons. No doubt we have a lot to learn about how all this works in practice, but I believe that, in the end, it’s nothing less than God’s pure, spiritual milk. Do we want it? Are we ready for it?

Prayers for Our World

Let us pray for our neighbors, our church, and our world:

  • For our own hearts and minds, we pray that we would truly long for that pure, spiritual milk, even when it demands more sacrifice than we want to give.
  • For all the violence and injustice that continue unabated in our world, we pray that God’s peace would heal us and finally make us one.
  • For those who are investigating and deciding on acts of violence like what happened to Ahmaud Arbery, we pray that they would be able to discover the truth and help bring justice and mercy.
  • For everyone who, like Julia Ward Howe and Audrey Assad, is actively seeking to bring life and freedom to all, we pray for wisdom and courage.
  • For the church here and around the world, we pray that it embraces Jesus’ power of sacrifice and, in doing so, will become a source of hope, freedom, and peace to all who are struggling from violence and death.
  • For all those who have died this week because of COVID-19, we pray that God would receive them into his open arms of love.

Closing Prayer

God of Peace, we know your ways are better than our ways. We know that you came in peace and for peace. Unsettle us as we continue to learn what all that means and how we can be a resurrection people who would die to set people free. We ask that you hear our prayers for our city, our church, and our world, and that you do so in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, one God with you and the Holy Spirit. Amen.