Are you a stranger?
In Peter’s first letter to the church, believers are referred to as aliens, the exiled, foreigners, temporary residents, strangers. The terms may differ according to which version of the Bible is used, but the message is consistent: Christians don’t fit in the world. Is that our experience? Do we, especially in America, feel like strangers in our culture, or have we adjusted quite comfortably? And what exactly does it mean to be a stranger? According to Peter…
Strangers face difficulties differently. “…though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith…may be proved genuine….” (1 Peter 1:6-7). Christians live with the assurance that God intends to use even the darkest moments of their lives for something good. Unlike the world, they have reason to hope that the suffering they experience is not for naught.
Strangers abound in holiness. They have been “redeemed from the empty way of life” (1 Peter 1:18). Lives that were once empty cargo trains going nowhere are now loaded with the fruit of “joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23) because they are filled with the Holy Spirit. The overall quality of the Christian’s life reflects the Spirit of God.
Strangers love in a much different way than the world. “Now that…you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22). Believers are no longer bound by self-centeredness, competition and control. They have access to a love the culture can’t imitate…love that comes from the very source of love itself.
When I think of being a stranger in the world as consisting of a life full of hope, holiness and whole-hearted love, it no longer bothers me that I don’t fit in. What does bother me-and should-is how much I do.
God is calling you and me to be strangers on the shore of this poor world. We can’t let our insecurities drive us to conformity with lifestyles that fail to connect with the Creator. It’s okay not to “fit in.” In fact, for the kingdom of God to advance, it’s a necessity.