Strangers

  "All these people we have mentioned received God's approval because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had far better things in mind for us that would also benefit them, for they can't receive the prize at the end of the race until we finish the race." Hebrews 11:39-40

 

"Strangers" have never been people who are naturally welcomed. I remember as a child a TV auto commercial promoting some brand of car care with the tag line, "Never pick up a stranger." It featured a car driving down a dark, rainy road at night, coming up to a dangerous looking man at the side of the road. The driver wisely passed him by. In the years since then, our avoidance of "strangers" has only gotten stronger. In the movie "Kindergarten Cop," the children are warned to avoid any contact with strangers, and in one scene, when a villain tries to abduct his son, the other children point at him and cry out, "Stranger, stranger!" Let me say, none of this is bad. Neither we or our children should ever be exposed to needless danger. But I make these points with the purpose of showing forth just what a disciple of Jesus Christ is to look like to the world....and sadly, may look like to the church as well.

A friend, commenting on the passage from Hebrews 11, focused on the words, "these people." He said that very often when they're used in the discussion about others, it is not in a complimentary way. As in, "We're not like these people." Or, "Did you notice the strange behavior of those people?" In Acts, the populace, greatly alarmed at the reports of what the followers of Christ were doing said, "Those people who have turned the world upside down, have come here as well." Being among those people is not a good place as far as the world measures things, but it is the only place for the one who has their life firmly in Christ. The question for us is, are we truly found in our day to day witness for Him to be among those people?

 

That same friend mentioned above likes to say that those who are His ought to live in such a way as to give the appearance that "we're not from around here." "Here" being this world and its value system. The fully devoted disciple of Jesus Christ ought to, no, must be a stranger to this world and all of its ways. To be a citizen of the Kingdom is to be a citizen of another world. It's means we're otherworldly. Somehow, I think we've come to fear such a designation. I understand the desire to reach a lost and already dead world, as well as the desire to not appear to sit in a place of superiority and judgement towards them. But I think in doing this, we have, intentional or not, more often tried to make those we seek to reach comfortable, rather than deeply convicted of their need. Much is made of being like Jesus, but nothing Jesus said or did made those watching and hearing comfortable. Indeed, in the end, they killed Him for His witness. He was the Ultimate Stranger, as well as the ultimate lover of our souls.

 

To really be His means we will never be at home in this world. We claim to know that, but tell me, how comfortable are you and I here right now? How much different do our lives really look to the unbelieving world around us? How much different do our fellowships? I'm not speaking about weird dress, behavior, or speech, though know this; one who lives fully in His world will look very weird indeed to all those who don't. Like the children, people will point and say, "Stranger, stranger." Maybe not out loud, but it will be their response to such lives. Do we dare to live as "those people" did? Do we have the look of "not being from around here?" Or have we done such a good job of fitting in, that we give witness of conformation to that world, not transformation from it? Hard questions that demand real answers. What's our real answer?  

Blessings,
Pastor O


 

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