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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Strangers and Aliens

In the book of 1st Peter, Peter speaks of our being strangers and aliens upon the earth. He speaks of our being merely sojourners here for a time as we pass through on our way to heaven. He states: “Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.” (I Peter 1:17 NIV). Yet many times we become very comfortable with our lives here on earth. We can become too identified with the culture and times in which we live. How much do we identify today with the old gospel chorus? “This world is not my home. I’m just a passing through. If Heaven’s not my home, then Lord what will I do? The angels’ beckon me from Heaven’s open door. And I can’t feel at home in this world any more.”
It is very easy to become comfortable and blend in with the culture in which we
live. Because American Christianity tends to focus on right living, it identifies itself with what is good and proper in the secular culture around us. But as one writer has noted, when our secular culture expresses a new thought, American Christians are following it within 20 years. We become exactly like the world around us.

Examples of this trend surround us. Despite the biblical prohibitions, the divorce rate among Christians is not that much different from that of the non-Christians community around us. Christians and non-Christians both have abortions. Many Christians, along with non-Christians believe in evolution. We both tend to get caught up in materialism and “looking out for number one”. There is little difference between the lifestyle of Christians and morally upright non-Christians. The early Christian community of the first century was known as turning the world upside down. Is our current Christian community looked upon today in the same way?
We have forgotten that we are to be counter cultural. A speaker was asked if the role of the church was to support the political party in opposition to the one in power. He replied, “No, the role of the church is to hold both parties accountable to standards of righteousness and justice.” Many times we forget that we are people with a relationship with God that is to affect all of our relationships here on earth. God expects us to be different. We are expected to personally live and hold our culture to a higher standard. This is why we are to be strangers and aliens in the world.

One of the difficulties that our military faced during the Viet Nam war was the fact that the enemy perfectly blended in with the local populace. There was no easy way to tell who was who. But the enemy always knew they were the enemy! Today the Christian church has to a large extent blended in with the culture around us. We have become very comfortable. We accept many of the same tenets held by our secular society. We have forgotten that we are to be counter cultural. The lives we live are not that much different than those of the community at large around us. We have forgotten that we are to critique the culture in which we live. The one major difference between us and our culture may be that we spend one hour per week in church. Unfortunately that often doesn’t make much of a difference the rest of the week. If this is true, one haunting question remains: “If I was arrested and charged with being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict me?” May the jury find us guilty!

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