According to an American survey in The Washington Post “the fear of strangers” made it into the top five fears people face.
While there are “strangers” that should signal “danger,” a stranger can be anyone who you have not met. Getting to truly know someone is quite a process, even if you would call yourself an outgoing person. There are many details people ask about each other: where they are from, questions about family and ethnic origin, work, hobbies, beliefs, etc.
When people are getting to know me, they often ask about my beliefs when they find out I am a pastor. A usual question is, “Tell me about your spiritual background?” I often answer, “I am a follower of Jesus and I seek to love God and others. I try to keep it real simple.” Some people accept this response with a polite affirmation, while thinking inwardly that it is noble to believe in something. Other people resonate with my response and seek to connect with some shared beliefs. Then there are others who quickly assert how “strange” it is to believe in something they cannot see and to follow a bunch a rules and regulations from an ancient book.
As a follower of Jesus in our modern culture I do appear rather “strange” to many people. I seek to live for Jesus in my daily life and obey the principles of the Bible that outline the way I can enjoy life to the fullest. So, I guess to be called “strange” for trying to live this way is fine with me.
In the Bible, Jesus’ disciple, Peter, wrote a letter and addressed it to many churches spread across Asia Minor. The intent of the letter, known as 1 Peter, was an encouragement to followers of Christ to “live into” this new relationship of following Jesus in the midst of tough and changing times. Peter writes to these new followers of Jesus and says, “Dear friends, since you are immigrants and strangers in the world, I urge that you avoid worldly desires that wage war against your lives. Live honorably among the unbelievers” (1 Peter 2:11-12). Peter inspires them to live as “strangers” or as ones who understand the “big picture” of being people who live like “they are only passing through.”
This perspective allows followers of Jesus to value life each day at a time and to invest in the eternal things that really matter. Peter acknowledges that life can be hard, but if they are connected and dependent on Jesus and his values, they can live life to the fullest. Peter also sees an outcome that will happen as others watch the “strange” way these followers of Jesus live.
Peter says, “Today, they defame you, as if you were doing evil. But in the day when God visits to judge they will glorify him, because they have observed your honorable deeds (1 Peter 2:12).
He says when followers of Jesus “live honorably” other “unbelievers,” who live for themselves and mock those who are seeking to live for Jesus, will eventually praise God about their counter cultural “strange” living when God returns. So the byproduct of “strange” living for a follower of Jesus means that others will get to know Jesus! This encouragement makes me want to continue to live “strangely” and as a “stranger” in this world, so I can simply live to love God and love others. Who else wants to live life in this “strange” way?
Frank Alioto is the pastor of The River Covenant Church: “An Alaskan church for people who would rather come to the River.” Join us as we explore a series on 1 Peter called, “LIVE into THIS!” We gather on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. at K-Beach Elementary in Soldotna. 252-2828 or www.therivercovenantchurch.org.