Strangers in a Strange Land
Anna Kuta, ReligionToday.com Editor
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).
Last fall, I took a road trip with some friends to watch our college football team, the Richmond Spiders, take on in-state rival James Madison University. Our team was 3 and 1 at that point in the season, and our only loss had come from a nailbiter the week before, so we were pretty confident as we set out that morning. It was a gorgeous day for football and we’d managed to get some of the very last tickets before the game sold out, so we were quite proud of ourselves and excited for what seemed like it would be an extremely successful trip.
However, it wasn’t long before things started going downhill. We took a wrong turn and ended up circling the entire town of Harrisonburg twice. An hour and a half later, we finally got to the stadium gates just as the game started, but as we started climbing the bleachers to our seats, we began to realize we were the only ones in sight wearing Richmond red and blue. Turns out our tickets we were so proud of were not in the Richmond fan section, as we thought, but the reject seats on the complete opposite corner of the field. We felt like the enemy as we took our seats smack in the middle of a sea of yellow and purple, but that wasn’t going to deter us from still cheering on a victory.
When Richmond made a touchdown right away for the game’s first points, things seemed to be looking great (besides the dirty looks we got). Unfortunately, that was as good as it got. We didn’t score again for the rest of the game. JMU piled on touchdown, touchdown, field goal, touchdown … and with each point my friends and I sat a little more dejectedly in our seats. Someone threw yellow streamers and paper airplanes at us, and then it started pouring rain. It finally ended and we left the stadium soaking wet and miserable. But the ordeal wasn’t quite over yet. We started walking back to our car, got heckled, decided against walking in the rain among hecklers, got on a shuttle, and proceeded to get heckled for the next half hour we were stuck in traffic. When we finally got back to the car, all we could do was grumble a little bit and shake our heads.
We can laugh about that disaster of a day now, but it certainly wasn’t very funny at the time. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience at a sporting event, or you can identify with the same feeling of being unwelcome in a different situation. Have you ever faced similar hostility for your faith? Even though you and I might never experience anything close to the extreme suffering that many believers around the world face, we all have times when we feel out of place or downright vilified because of our faith.
As Christians, we are “strangers and aliens” in a world of unbelievers, as Peter says in 1 Peter 2:11. The older I get, the more keenly aware I am that I don’t think like them, that I don’t have the same desires, motivations and passions. The more I grow in my faith, the more different I feel from many people I come in contact with, and the more open I am about my faith, the more that difference becomes tangible. We are called to be set apart, yet we are in the world for a reason: to share Jesus. It’s often not received with open arms, but it’s what we are commanded to do as followers of Christ.
Like Jesus says in John 15:18, it’s not always going to be easy. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own, He says. But when we accept Christ and enter into a relationship with Him, He chooses us out of the world. Like my friends and I felt when we were surrounded by fans of an opposing team, so we as Christians will never feel “at home” in this world. Yes, we’ll face opposition, but Jesus Himself said it’s a badge of the Christian faith and a sign that we belong to Him. In answering His call to reject worldly conformity, we can truly make an impact by being an example for Jesus.
Intersecting Faith & Life: It’s not easy living a life of Jesus’ high calling, and the way we’re treated by the world can be plain discouraging at times. Pray for God to help you desire to be more like Him and to give you strength to stand up against opposition.
1 Peter 2:11-12