Pastor’s Corner: “Temporary Residents”
1 Peter 2:11 (NLT) – 11 Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. 1 Peter 1:17 (NIV) – 17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.
Has this thought ever crossed your mind: “If I were to share some of my views on life with some of the people that I work with, they would think I’m from another planet!” Even if you reside in a traditionally conservative part of the world, living out an authentic Christian faith at street-level should make you feel like a stranger and an exile. The problem is we don’t like not being accepted. We don’t want to merely be loved and understood – we want be liked, appreciated, & part of the popular crowd.
The Christian life is so counterintuitive that Peter called Christians aliens, strangers, foreigners, and exiles. Christ transformed the impulsive, stumbling fisherman into one of the most influential men in history. People took note that these “unschooled and ordinary” men had “been with Jesus”!
The reality is we are aliens. The language and values and customs and expectations of this world should feel foreign to us. Something really radical has happened to us. God has caused us to be born again to a living hope—for another world, another, greater kind of existence. Paul put it this way: Colossians 3:3-4 (NLT) – 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. Jesus called us to live like aliens—to fix our minds on radically different priorities than the nations. Matthew 6:31-33 (NLT) – “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
In various ways of everyday Christian life, our alien faith will conflict with the values of our temporary residence. So, how Do We Keep Our Alien Identity and keep from getting absorbed into this age? Here are a few things to remember when the journey gets awkward, difficult or hostile:
Embrace Your Uncomfortable Identity. Faith gives you a brand new identity. When we swear allegiance to a new King (Jesus), we embrace a new set of values, a new way of thinking, and a new lifestyle of choices. Accept the fact that as an alien, life will be uncomfortable, and people will naturally question your decisions.
Engage With The Culture. The Christian faith doesn’t call us to be monastics hermits; in fact, quite the opposite! We are meant to engage with culture and interact with a lost and broken people. We just happen to do so with a radically different perspective. Being an alien doesn’t mean being contentious. Yes, we will have to defend the faith and biblical values, but stay focused on the Gospel of Jesus Christ and do not get distracted by meaningless arguments.
Remember Your Example. The best reminder for alien living is our Lord and Savior. How’s this for a job description? “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3). Jesus knows what you’re experiencing, and he walks with you every difficult and awkward step of the way. “Be of sound judgment and sober spirit” with a view to staying in touch with the foreign King back in the homeland of heaven.
Love One Another with a Special Degree of Love. John 13:35 (AMPC) – 5 By this shall all [men] know that you are My disciples, if you love one another [if you keep on showing love among yourselves]. Aliens are not perfect. And the stress of living in a foreign land can cause us to say things and do things that we regret. These things can hurt and even destroy the precious relationships that we need so badly as aliens. These things need to be covered and forgiven if life is to be livable together as aliens in a hostile world. So Peter calls us to love each other. And to let love cover the offense that can ruin the camaraderie that holds the alien community together.
Look Forward To A Better Home. The Bible identifies us as sojourners, people temporarily stopping over before our final destination. Hebrews 11:13-16 (NLT) – 13 All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. 14 Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. 15 If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. 16 But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. We can learn from their example and find motivation for faithful living by looking forward to the city God has prepared for us.
God is not ashamed to be called our God. Let’s not be afraid to live as aliens! Reflect: How much do I tie myself to the world? Do my children and others see me living like a stranger and pilgrim in this world, or do they think this is my final home? How prepared am I for the journey ahead beyond this life? Where is my true home?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, wherever You are will be both home and heaven for all of us. Keep reminding us that we are all merely passing through this world into the next. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.
In His Grace,