Like A Sore Thumb
Earlier this week I traveled to California for a pastor’s conference. When we arrived at the airport, I followed the crowd to the baggage area to pick up my suitcase. When I got there, I noticed a small group of men standing in the waiting area who were obviously from another country. These men looked different, sounded different, had clothing that was different, and were acting differently than the rest of the people there. All of that “difference” made them really stand out in that airport environment. The result was that they were the recipients of quite a few stares from the other folks in the baggage area.
As I stood there observing what was happening, I was reminded of 1 Peter 2:11 - which tells us: “As foreigners, keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.” In this verse Peter reminds us that this world is not our home. Instead, if we belong to God, we are citizens of heaven. The apostle Paul puts it like this in Philippians 3:20: “Others think only about this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives.” Both of these verses remind us that, although this is where we currently live, this world is not our home. So the way we talk, the way we treat others, the way we handle our resources, the way we live each and every day needs to be different than how the world lives. Our daily lives need to make us stand out from the world as much as those foreign businessmen stood out at the airport - making it clear that we belong to another kingdom.
The challenge comes in that “being foreign” is much easier said than done. Feeling different, or out of place with the people around you is not the most comfortable feeling to have. From junior high on, we’ve all spent a lot of time trying to “fit in”. That’s why, even as adults, we can spend a lot of time trying to blend in with the culture around us. In very subtle ways we can embrace the world’s standards and ways of doing things. After a while, there becomes little difference between us and the people around us. That’s why we need this reminder that God doesn’t want His children to go with the flow and blend in. Instead, He chose us to be holy, and He set us apart for His work. Ephesians 1:4 puts it like this: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.”
God wants us to stand out as His children. However, He doesn’t want us to stand out just for the sake of standing out. He wants us to stand out as objects of hope - as warm lights of comfort that draw people to a different way of living. That’s some of the “good things” God set us aside to do. And it’s something we need to do because this world is going a different direction than God is going - a direction that leads to death.
So today, let’s remember that this world isn’t our home, and we don’t want to go the way the world is going. Let’s ask God to show us the areas in our lives where we’re using the world’s perspective instead of His. Then let’s surrender those areas to Him, and commit to being “in this world” as God’s messengers of hope - but not “of this world”, embracing things that lead us away from the God who loves us.