On Being an Alien



Last week, as I was listening to “In the Market with Janet Parshall” on Kinship Christian Radio, I happened to catch her guest Nancy Pearcey as she was talking about Paul’s letter to the Philippians. She was making specific reference to Philippians 3:20 in which Paul reminds his readers:


But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. (NLT)


A lot of people read that verse and think to themselves, “That’s right –and I can’t wait to get to my real home.” But Pearcey made the point that Paul was writing to Roman citizens living in a Roman colony in Greece. They would have known that their objective was not to return to Rome, but to infuse that Greek, Philippian culture with Roman culture.


They were settlers there. Philippi sits on the northern end of the Aegean Sea. The Romans had conquered it and settled it about a hundred years before Paul wrote his letter to the people living there. In fact, if you look at the verse in context, Paul is clearly telling the settlers there not to live like the original inhabitants, but to pattern their lives after his and learn from his example by living godly lives focused on Jesus Christ.


We are supposed to be different. 


The Apostle Peter agrees, having written:


Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 1 Peter 2:11 (ESV)


Jesus repeatedly made reference to the Kingdom of God and He made it quite clear that it was much different than any earthly kingdom. Even when He was facing certain death, He did not hide it from Pilate:


Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36 (NLT)


It does seem other-worldly. In Ephesians, Paul wrote:


So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, Ephesians 2:19 (ESV)


Speaking of aliens, one of my favorite movies (which is probably now old enough to be considered a classic) is “Men in Black.” In it, Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith star as undercover agents tasked with preventing aliens from destroying the earth while simultaneously preventing the general public from knowing that there are millions of aliens secretly living on earth disguised as people and pets. One of those pets is a little pug named Frank who is an unwilling informant.


But see, the thing is, too many of us Christians try and be the aliens from that movie. We try and blend in with the world, living almost undercover among our friends and neighbors without actually saying the name “Jesus” out loud –or living differently. Much like Frank, we’re unwilling to give up that kind of information unless someone shakes it out of us somehow.


I will confess, it can be difficult to start up a conversation about Jesus. When I was in Israel, I wanted to interview normal Israeli people for this blog. I found one of the best ways to do that was to wear one of my favorite Hawaiian shirts and simply begin conversations with people by saying, “Hi, I’m pretty sure you can tell I’m not from here. Would you mind talking to me for a few minutes?” (Having a pen and paper in my hand also helped.)


Well over 90% of the time, the sight of a big goofy American in a Hawaiian shirt would illicit a chuckle, break down a few defenses, and end up in some absolutely wonderful conversations.


But, while that worked in a foreign land where I was clearly out of place, it can actually be more difficult for us in the everyday world in which we live and work. 


That’s where relentless love comes in. True, genuine love and care for another human being is not a gimmick. It’s not a “hook” that we use to try and “sell” Jesus. It’s listening to other people’s burdens. It’s rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep. It’s praying for them, right then and there when they need it, not saying you’ll pray for them and then forgetting to do so hours later. It’s the things Paul and Peter and Jesus talked about. It’s being real with people and truly loving them in the midst of their joy and sorrow and pain and triumph –even if we disagree with their choices, their lifestyles, their politics.


It’s coming to the hard reality that you do not have to agree with someone to love them. It’s seeing the image of God in them even when all the “stuff” of this world is trying to cover it up –and loving them anyway.


In a culture that is growing increasingly divided and hostile toward one another, that would truly make us look like we are more than a little different.


No one said being an alien was easy.


Today’s Praise

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV)

1 reply
  1. Vickie
    Vickie says:

    I agree that we Christians need to act like aliens. We are from the world, but not of the world. I agree it can be quite hard to talk about Jesus, but I try to talk about Jesus as much as possible. God is always great!


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