Living As Aliens In This World

Thursday, August 25, 2016

"Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls." 1 Peter 2:11 (NLT)

Peter uses a phrase in this verse that holds the key to completely changing the way we live. I will point out that walking in the world is not easy. It is wrought with spiritual minefields, roadblocks and barriers that are designed to knock us off course and worse, destroy us, but Peter gives us a sure-fire way to defeat anything that stands in our way. In that verse he uses the phrase temporary residents and foreigners. Other translations use the word aliens. Most Americans don't understand what it means to be an alien in another land since the vast majority of us have never lived outside our home country of America. Aliens do things different. They don't celebrate the same holidays or adhere to the same customs.

My brother and his family were missionaries to a Muslim country for over a decade. They stuck out in a crowd everywhere they went. People would literally stare at these strange white people. They were literally aliens in a strange land. In that particular country, women were second class citizens and had very little personal freedom or rights. If a husband didn't like the way his wife cooked his dinner, it was acceptable for him to beat her. It became obvious that my brother and his wife were different, not just in the way they looked, but especially in they way he treated her. He treated her as a partner and his best friend. It would be unthinkable for him to beat his wife. That is something that he just did not do.

There were many customs my brother embraced. He learned to speak their language, eat their food, even dress like them, but there were many customs he simply refused to accept simply because they would violate his character. It would have been legal and socially acceptable for him to beat his wife, but he abstained from that practice. Abstaining from that reprehensible practice came easy for him because where he comes from, people just don't do that sort of thing. His identity as an alien dictated his behavior, regardless of the culture around him. The backside of this story is that God opened incredible doors of opportunity for them to radically change marriages and lead people to Jesus simply because they were different.

There is incredible power in this concept for us. Abstaining from sinful behavior is not the key to becoming holy. It's the other way around. Because of who we are through Christ, we are then empowered to abstain from the ways of this world. The power to change our behavior is found in the power of our identity in Christ. When you are tempted by sin, remind yourself that people don't do that where you come from. It is also important to remember that we don't live a certain way to become a certain kind of person. We live a certain way because of who we are. Character is not something you do. It's who you are.

As you strive to live a life of character in your world today, live in the reality of your identity in Christ. Dare to be different. Don't forget that you are not from here. You are an alien, a foreigner. Then let that identity empower you to abstain from the things of this world that wage war against your soul.

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