Do you ever feel like you just don’t fit in? We have all experienced those times when we are with a group of people and we feel very much like an outsider. It could be because the conversation is centered around things we don’t understand. It could be because they have a shared background that we don’t – they all grew up in the same community, or were part of the same military effort, or went to the same school, or have the same occupation, or enjoy the same hobbies, or are all related, etc. We may try to enter the conversation, or we may just stand to the side, but we definitely feel like we don’t belong. There is a difference between them and us, and it can’t just be ignored. It’s not a comfortable feeling.
That same feeling is the experience of anyone who has committed their life to Christ and is living in this world. We just don’t quite fit in. The things that we think important are not even seen as being relevant to those around us. We speak a different language, we value different experiences, and we have a vastly different set of values. We are truly aliens. It is obvious to us and to them that we just don’t belong.
There are several ways that we cope with that. Sometimes we may just find other Christians to hang out with. We feel comfortable with each other, so we just ignore (and sometimes even exclude) those who are outside the faith. We feel alienated among them, so we compensate by alienating them from our little circle. If they show up we may let them stand at the edge of our conversation, but we don’t try to include them. We make them the ones who feel uncomfortable as we just enjoy our fellow believers. We may even spend time just pointing out how bad all those folks are who aren’t part of us.
Other times we may try to “fit in” in their circle. We may pick up on their language and start to use the same buzz words. We may try to demonstrate that we are no different, and in so doing hide the fact that we are people of faith. We would argue that we aren’t abandoning the faith, we just say “it didn’t come up in the conversation.” We end up living a double life; the life of faith at church and a secular life at work or in our neighborhood. If we pull it off well, others may be surprised when they find out that we are Christian.
We try to feel comfortable by either pulling back from the rest of the world, or by blending into the world. Neither of those are how we are commanded to live. The Lord would encourage us to move out of our comfort zone and to remain in the world, but not become part of the world. He would remind us that we are to be salt and light in the world. We are not to cover our light, and we are not to stay in the salt shaker. We live differently with other people so that we can be used by God to make a difference in their lives.
Peter put it this way: “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. 16 Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. 17 Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.” (1 Peter 2:11-17 NIV) To that all I can add is Amen.