To be a disciple of Jesus means to be out of place in the world. We are like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. Our edges keeping us from fitting in.
I wonder if we, as the Church, have missed this reality.
Our sermons, lessons, and books deal with how we can have our best life now and how to live a life of purpose, but we are seldom taught how to live as foreigners in a foreign land.
Perhaps we are a little too comfortable with the world around us.
An alien in a foreign country stands out because he is different.
He speaks a different language (or at least with an accent).
He dresses differently. He celebrates different holidays.
He has different values.
Christians are to live like foreigners in a strange land.
Our goal isn't to learn the language and the customs of the world, but to create a little out post of the Kingdom of God.
We are to live by the customs and values of Heaven.
The apostle Peter wrote:
Dear friends, I warn you as "temporary residents and foreigners" to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world. (1 Peter 2:11-12; NLT)
How does the apostle Peter want us to live?
As "temporary residents" and "foreigners"!
We are displaced!
We are not at home!
I want you to catch this: Being a part of God's kingdom compels us to live differently from the world.
God isn’t interested in people who will merely confess their belief in Him.
The Bible tells us that at Jesus' return everyone will bow a knee and confess Jesus as Lord.
God wants people who, by faith, voluntary kneel before Him. Christians are God's people who live by faith.
As His people we are motivated by a different set of desires. As His people we live by a different standard. As His people we love the unlovely and help the helpless.
God expects His people not to abandon the customs of their home country, but to teach the customs of Heaven to others. We do this by living differently than the world around us.
In his book The Barbarian Way, Erwin McManus wrote:
From the moment we become citizens of the kingdom of God, we become aliens and strangers in a world that chooses to live absent of God. From the first step taken to follow Jesus, we are out of step with the rest of the world. Once your life is in sync with the story of God, you become out of sync with any story that attempts to ignore or eliminate God. You are a stranger to them, an alien among them, a nomadic wanderer who, while refusing to be rooted in this life, seems to somehow enjoy this life most. (p. 93)
Are you walking out of step with the world?
My great concern for the Church in the United States is that we are not really the Church. We are a caricature of what the Church is called to be.
It is true that many of us live by a different moral standard from the world, yet our hopes and dreams are wrapped up in the very same ambitions and desires of the world. Our dreams and desires center around success, money, happiness, and relationships. The list could go on, but the point is that while we are morally different from the world we are not spiritually different from them.
That my friends was one of the problems Jesus had with the Pharisees. They looked good on the outside, but on the inside they were filled with dead men’s bones.
White washed tombs.
We need to quite fooling ourselves that to be different from the world is just about having the right moral standard.
Being different from the world primarily has to do with our desires, dreams, attitudes, and thoughts. This requires a different hope.
The hope for Christians is not that we get to live in Heaven with God for eternity. Rather, our hope is that through Jesus' death, resurrection, and return, everything will be made right. It is the belief that the Kingdom of God will one day reclaim all its lost territory.
A temporary resident doesn’t put down roots in the land he is living. Instead he hopes and dreams for his home and thinks of the day when he will finally go home again.