Like A Sore Thumb
This week I have the privilege of attending a pastor’s conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It’s an annual trip I take, and every year, I’m encouraged by the time of worship and hearing from the Word, and of being with other pastors as they share about what God is doing in their churches.
This year, the conference organizers made a special effort to invite pastors from around the world, and so there are several international delegations here - representing countries like Columbia, India, Kenya, and even Pakistan. It’s been great to see these groups of men moving through the conference, and they’re always easy to pick out, because most of them have chosen to dress in traditional clothing from their home countries. So to say that they stand out in this crowd of mostly white, middle-aged, suburban-type pastors, would be a huge understatement.
But as I’ve observed these international brothers being both a part of the conference - and at the same time, standing out so distinctly - I was reminded of Philippians 3:20, where Paul tells us that, as Christians, “our citizenship is in heaven.” What this verse makes clear is that this world is not our home. And because of that, we can’t get too comfortable here. Instead, we need to follow the example the foreign pastors at this conference are setting - meaning, we need to be in this world, but at the same time, be distinct in standing out from the culture around us.
The challenge for us is that feeling “foreign”, or “standing out from the crowd” because we’re different, can feel really uncomfortable. So the result is that, all too often, we spend our time trying to blend in with the culture around us, rather than trying to live how God calls us to live. The result is that we embrace the world’s standards and ways of doing things - often to the point that there’s little difference between us and the people around us. The problem with living this way is that God doesn’t want us to just go with the flow and blend in. Instead, He chose us to be holy, and to be set apart for His work (Ephesians 1:4). And if we do what God calls us to do, the natural result is that we will feel like foreigners in this world, because this world is going a different direction than God is going.
So today, let’s remember that this world is not our home. Let’s ask God to show us the areas in our lives where we’re focusing on the world’s perspective, rather than His. And then, let’s surrender those areas to Him - committing ourselves to be in this world, but not of it.