When our son and his family moved from Michigan to Texas our granddaughter had an interesting experience. Her new 8th grade classmates warmly greeted and accepted this Michigan transplant. But one girl came up to her and, in all sincerity, asked “Do they have TV’s up there?” What a hoot!
I doubt very much that our granddaughter was all that strange but someone certainly thought the place she came from was strange. It led me to think that perhaps, as Christians, we should expect such strange questions – after all, we are from a different place. There are aliens among us – and they are us! We truly are aliens in a foreign land.
Here’s how the Apostle Peter stated it: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10) We are a strange, set apart people. We are strangers, aliens and foreigners in this world.
This means that we need to be intentional about our strangeness – not that we behave oddly just to be different but that we be holy so we will be different, for Christ’s sake. Peter continued: “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.“ (1 Peter 2:11-12) We are aliens, strangers in a foreign land and should live strangely – different from the natives of the land. Eugene Peterson, in The Message, puts some clarifying flesh on these verses: “Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.” So if someone thinks you’re strange, take it as a compliment because you should be!
The difficulty is that it can be hard to live as an alien. We may well be shunned, mocked, hated, or even persecuted – because the natives do not understand. The Good News Translation emphasizes it by translating the verses this way: “I appeal to you, my friends, as strangers and refugees in this world! Do not give in to bodily passions, which are always at war against the soul. Your conduct among the heathen should be so good that when they accuse you of being evildoers, they will have to recognize your good deeds and so praise God on the Day of his coming.” The natives will accuse us but will later recognize the truth and testify for us and give praise to God in doing so.
So just how strange, how different, how thought provoking is your behavior? Has anyone accused you lately of being strange? Has your behavior and lifestyle drawn enough attention to warrant someone’s negativity? How foreign have you appeared in the eyes of the natives around you? If no one has thought you strange, it may be time to examine your life and your witness, to ask if you are living in the marvelous light. And if you have been accused of being strange or your life has been questioned, – praise God! After all, you are the alien among us.