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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mini Sermon: Part 1 of 3

Why Being a Christian is like Being a Study Abroad Student

“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul”. 1 Peter 2:11

The word “alien”, meaning foreigner, appears in one form or another 96 times in the Old Testament (according to biblegateway.com), mostly in reference to the people of Israel, who were “aliens” in the land they lived in. It occurs six times in the New Testament, usually in terms of Christians being aliens in the world. It seems God has a thing for aliens.

This past six months, I experienced life as an alien in another country. When looking back on my experience, three things really struck me as being parallels for the Christian life.

1. Not Belonging
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” John 15:18-19

When I met someone in England, the conversation often went like this.

“Hi, I’m Emma. Nice to meet you.”
“Hi Emma. I’m _____. Where in the States are you from?”

I never really thought that I had an accent until I went to England, where I discovered that there, the English don’t have accents, but the Americans do. I couldn’t open my mouth without immediately marking myself as a foreigner. I could dress the right way, ride my bike on the left side of street, and drink tea. But as soon as someone talked to me, they knew where I was from. To be honest, there were times when I got sick of it. Times when I just wanted to be Emma-the-human-being, not Emma-the-American. But the simple fact of the matter is that I am an American, and no matter how much I adapted to the English culture, I couldn’t hide the fact.

In the same way, Christians are not citizens of the world, but of the body of Christ. And so here, where we are foreigners, we ought to have accents. St. Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words”. Our lives should be our gospels. We shouldn’t have to talk to be marked as Christians, but should live in such away that we are noticeably different.

This doesn’t mean we should go around walking barefoot, or not bathing. Our goal isn’t to make ourselves unappealing to the world. But we don’t just answer to ourselves, to our bosses, to our fellow human beings. We also answer to God, and it is by His standard that we are called to live. And when we are living by His standard, and not our own, we will stand out. It won’t always be easy, and there will be times when we fail. Going against the stream is always harder than going with it. No one wants to be the odd one who doesn’t fit in. But there it is. We are strangers in a strange land, aliens in the earth, and we are called to live as such.

1 comment:

Beverley said...

Man, you are fast. I've hardly had lunch and done a few errands and you have already written a mini epistle. Can't wait for parts 2 and 3...which you apparently have already planned!

All I can say is "Amen, sister, you nailed it".