Strangers In The World

“To God’s elect, strangers in the world…”

Strangers In The WorldThe apostle Peter addresses his letter to God’s Church, calling them “strangers” (KJV), “pilgrims” (NKJV), “those who reside as aliens” (NASB), “strangers in the world” (NIV). This first line reminds all Christian believers — those scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia as well as those scattered throughout Texas, Oklahoma, California, Montana, and Kentucky — that we are an alternative society. We are a counter culture. The Christian community is called to show a desperate world how to think and speak and act and behave differently.

Holy Scripture and the life of our Christ and his apostles always calls us to change the world; never to conform, instead to convert. And the only way it works is for us to be different.

Vaclav Havel, President of the Czech Republic, was once asked why the revolution there against the communists was successfully non-violent. He answered, “We had our parallel society. And in that parallel society we wrote our plays and sang our songs and read our poems until we knew the truth so well that we could go out to the streets of Prague and say, ‘We don’t believe your lies anymore’ — and communism had to fall.”

God’s Church must be a similar kind of parallel society. And we best form that society when we assemble together to worship. We speak our language together, we read our stories of God and his work with his people together, we sing the hymns of faith together, we pour out our prayers together until we know the truth so well that we can go out into the world around us, denounce the lies that threaten to force us to conform, and invite the world to share the truth with us. We are shaped by a Biblical narrative that tells a much different story from the one in our surrounding culture.

Marva Dawn in A Royal Waste of Time: “Rather than becoming enculturated and entrapped by the world’s values of materialistic and experiential consumerism, of narcissistic self-importance and personal taste, of solitary superficiality, and of ephemeral satisfaction, members of Christ’s Body choose his simple life of sharing, his willingness to suffer for the sake of others, his communal vulnerability, and his eternal purposes.”

Sociologists know that any alternative way of life that is substantially different from the larger society around it needs its own language, customs, habits, rituals, institutions, procedures, and practices if it’s going to remain alternative. These things are paramount to upholding and nurturing a clear vision of how we are different and why it matters.

Are we as Christians committed to the alternative way of life described in the Scriptures and incarnated in the Christ? It’s the only way to communicate to the world what they’re missing. If we’re too much like the surrounding culture, we have nothing, no alternative,┬áto offer.

“Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world…live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God.” ~1 Peter 2:11-12

Peace,

Allan

4 Comments

  1. Howard

    Just call me the fly in the oinment. Let me know when it becomes overly annoying. You talk of “upholding and nurturing a clear vision of how we are different and why it matters.” Given the supposition that the vision truly is clear, maybe you could be more concrete as to how we are to be different. Surely in America we are not going to really “suffer for the sake of others. Granted that in this country we consume 20 times what we really need for the good life, surely it is a hyperbole to suggest we would make any significant dent in that consumption. Just wondering again as to how your life does differ or should differ from mine.

    Peace to you.
    Howard

  2. Howard

    How does one keep pride out of being different? By urging difference are we not urging better? Is there a way of living the Christian life without viewing others as “desperately” in need of changng? Must we view the world as being full of lies and view us only as having the truth? It seems to me that even using the word “lies” to describe others is attaching more intentionality to their condition than might be warranted. If someone differs from us, is he necessarily a liar?

    I am not saying this can be done. I am not saying one can be a Christian without judging himself good and others bad. I was not able to pull it off, but maybe it was just me.

  3. Rob's Dad

    Howard – I appreciate a different point of view. Allan hasn’t blocked me from posting here (yet) so I think you are safe.

    Some will suffer for the sake of others. It may not always be in magnificent and visible forms. We can take steps, small as they may be, and that is progress. It’s the old story about tossing sand dollars back in the ocean -I can’t get them all but to this one, it makes all the difference in the world.

    The concrete actions are two-fold: deciding to make a difference and then taking action with more weight on the taking action part.

  4. Howard

    Rob’s Dad,

    I’m still looking for someone who likes to talk as much as I do. With regard to the sand dollars story, it is a nice story, but I wonder is it would be a story of Jesus. When he was confronted with the issue he said, “Go sell all….”

    If I decide to contribute 5% or 10% or 50% of what I have to the poor, I stil end up with wealth far in excess of theirs and end up with a life so comfortable I cannot call it “suffering” without blushing.

    Allan call us to be different. I don’t think that in the area of “suffering for the sake of others” there is any expectation of real compliance. If we are not going to REALLY suffer for the sake of others, why must we console ourselves as if we do? Why not start with some reality like, “We are like all others in that we are willing to thrown in a token whenever someone is looking?”

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