Peter is perfectly clear in his expectations for the Gentile converts to whom he writes: He says, “Be holy.”
The word “holy” always struck me as sort of “churchy.” You could use it on Sunday when you were in church but not during the week at football practice or in the school cafeteria. I knew that “saints” were regarded as holy but they belonged in the windows of cathedrals. You could tell they were holy by how grim they looked! I reasoned that certain preachers must be holy because they had that look. They told us to be holy, and they wouldn’t tell us to be something they weren’t, would they? In any case, being holy didn’t especially appeal to me as a teenager even though it was clearly taught in 1 Pet 1:15, “Be holy in all you do.”
As I grew older my understanding of who God was and what he expected of us matured. I no longer viewed him as a sort of cosmic schoolmaster burdened with the task of educating us to the realities of life. Along the way I learned an extremely important lesson — that God’s role was not to keep us from doing what we wanted to do, but to free us to do the things that in the long run would bring us the greatest satisfaction. In WW II my brother George was an underwater demolition expert. Among other things he laid out mine fields. When one of our ships had to go through the area he gave them a map of where the mines were located. Why? The obvious answer is so they wouldn’t hit one of their own mines and be blown out of the water. The Bible is God’s map of the “mines of life” — He wants us to be able to travel though life without getting blown up by our own sins. He wants us to be holy, not to measure up to some standard he has set up, but for our own sake.
To be holy means to share in God’s likeness. God’s children are to have a certain family likeness. We are to be holy because, as vs. 16 says — “Because I am holy.” As children of God our conduct should remind others of our Father. It is that simple. Granted, that’s a long way to go, but at least we can set out on the journey. “Be holy!” he says. And if we dare ask why, he will tell us, “Because I am holy.” That is a natural part of being part of his family.