Fellow followers of Jesus, somebody today should think you are weird.
In the sermon on Sunday (which you can listen to here) we looked intensely at the term “exiles“ which the Apostle Peter uses to describe the people of the church. Peter uses this term repeatedly in his first letter to the church as he describes our identity. We Christians, people from all tribes and nations, are never really at home in this world. Whatever our geographic location, and whatever the cultural customs of our particular age, Christians will never altogether adopt the values and practices of those who surround us. Followers of Jesus will always discover ways in which we must live distinctly unlike our friends, coworkers, leaders and neighbors who do not know Jesus or live according to his teachings and values.
Just like a Resident Alien who is from one land and currently resides in a different culture, you and I are to exhibit different practices and behaviors from the people who surround us. Our lives of discipleship are an exhibition of what it looks like to live with one foot firmly planted in the current reality of this world, and one foot planted in the eternal reality of the Kingdom of God.
As I mentioned on Sunday, there ought to be some things about our weirdness that are incredibly attractive to the healthy Pagans who surround us. They should look at the way that we care for the poor, dole out forgiveness, prioritize the needs of others, live sexually pure lives, and find in those things a compelling magnetism. They should, to use Peter’s words in 1 Peter 2:12, “see our good deeds” and “good lives” and glorify God because of us.
There ought to be other components of our weirdness as followers of Christ that the prevailing culture finds rather offensive. When we reject the surrounding culture in its prioritization of individualism, permissivism, and materialism, in its appeals for vengeance, in its licentious sexuality, or idolatry; when we exhibit that our values are not entirely dictated to us by our cultural context but are appropriated from the teachings of Jesus Christ, it is likely that our non-Christian friends and neighbors will find our weirdness threatening, off-putting or judgmental. Again, as Peter writes in 1 Peter chapter 2, if we are living appropriately as “exiles” in this world, the surrounding culture will accuse us “of doing wrong” at times.
We are not at home in this world. We are foreigners, residing in a time and place that does not perfectly fit us. Sometimes, others will see that truth in our lives and be drawn to it. Other times, the worldly will see that reality present in us and respond with condemnation. Both experiences ought to be a part of visibly living out our discipleship in the context of this culture.
Grateful to be living a life that is both attractive and offensive alongside you all,