In an ever-changing societal landscape, Christians often feel more out of place. The standards of this world will war against the biblical mandates, and therefore, we ought to feel different.
Often, when I look at the state of what is going on around me, I hear the voice of Jon Foreman ringing in my ears:
See, I don’t belong here“The Beautiful Letdown” by Switchfoot
Well, I don’t belong here
I will carry a cross
With a song where I don’t belong
I don’t belong here. I was built for something else. But I’m here anyway. I’ve got to learn to follow Jesus in a land that doesn’t.
The Apostle Peter knew that tension all too well.
1 Peter 2:11-12
11 Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and exiles to abstain from sinful desires that wage war against the soul. 12 Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that when they slander you as evildoers, they will observe your good works and will glorify God on the day he visits.
The Apostle Peter reminds us to live as if we are dislocated from where we belong. As “strangers,” he wants us to view our lives as foreigners with citizenship from a different land. As “exiles,” he reminds us that we are temporary residents sojourning through this world. Some translations even use the word “aliens” to describe our identity.
When you think of an alien, you probably envision a sci-fi movie with visitors from a different planet that doesn’t look like us and doesn’t operate from a standard set of values. Their invasion in any story is always seen as troubling the status quo because they are different. It doesn’t take supreme investigative skills to see that their values are different, their customs are peculiar, and their goals are distinct. It doesn’t take long to know that they don’t belong there, and it challenges everyone else that does.
Is this type of invasion what we are meant to portray to this world? In a way, yes. We don’t belong here. If it appears that we do, we fail Christ’s objective that we point others to a new way of living. To do so, we must abstain from sinful desires that are common in our day. We don’t live by this world’s standards, which is very much OK. The worldview and practices of this world wage war against our souls.
So, while we live differently, it doesn’t mean we live disrespectfully.
As aliens, we are called to live honorably among the Gentiles. In the ethnically Jewish context in which Peter wrote, they saw everyone as either Jew or Gentile. There was no middle ground. It was an us vs. them mentality that was hard to shake. Peter indicates that those who know God ought to live differently than those who don’t know Him.
And if they slander us because of our alien-like tendencies, letting them wrestle with different practices does not mean it should be disregarded. Let them see your good works. Live in such a way that they notice a difference in you. Whom do you think God has placed around you intentionally? Pray for that person’s salvation and your willingness to take the initiative to share your hope in Christ this very day.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.