“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).
What is the greatest problem I’ve had being a missionary? It hasn’t been:
- The language – even though we have learned one National language and one tribal language and function in a third area trade language and deal with 3 other tribal languages.
- The bugs – even though when people ask about the most dangerous animals we have, I reply – mosquitoes, ameba, thyroid, and other assorted microbes. The Lord has been very good to us and our kids, He has, I know, protected us from many things we were not aware of.
- The snakes – I saw more snakes growing up in Eastern Oklahoma. We see some big snakes on occasion. I have seen 20ft snakes and eaten them. I have been face to face with a king cobra.
- The rivers – we travel by river, not road. And in the beginning, made some unplanned swims in the river.
- The mountains – we are thankful for missionary pilots that fly us over the mountains.
- The heat – this is a much bigger issue and seems to be affecting us more as we go along. But we have fans that help.
What I’m talking about is something that is more basic than just physical comforts. It has to do with relationships and our reason for being in a 3rd world tropical environment. The most difficult thing has been that we are always strangers/foreigners. I am always too tall, and too white. I don’t always talk and think like the natives.
Now I don’t even think like the natives in the US. I am a stranger in America. I’m a river boat man. We travel by boat, I marvel at all the boats on the lakes here. I can’t understand why people would have boats like this to just use a couple of times a year, and they are not even going anywhere but in circles. It seems strange to me.
I have a problem when I come to the US. I am now a stranger. I feel it every time I come back. Now my daughter shows her old Daddy how to use the credit card at the gas pump and at the check out in Wal-Mart. I have a problem every time I start driving in the US. Every time I have the green light and start through the intersection and have an approaching car – I pause to make sure the approaching car will stop.
We don’t have stop signs where I come from and folks don’t always stop for red lights where we come from. Teresa and I are strangers in this country. I feel like I am always trying to find my way around in traffic – always driving in a strange place and new roads. I need patience. Now I don’t always understand the words people use.
Is this wrong or sinful to feel like a stranger? No! I think the opposite is true. If we feel at home in this world we have an ungodly and non-Biblical worldview. I know that is strong language, but we have some things in Scripture to back this up. In a godly and Biblical sense, we should feel like strangers in this world. If we feel at home in this world we shouldn’t. This is not our home we are just passing through.
Heaven should be the home that we long for. I appreciate Don Wyrtzen’s song, “Finally Home”:
“Just think of stepping on shore, and finding it heaven
Of touching a hand, and finding it God’s
Of breathing new air, and finding it celestial
Of waking up in Glory, and finding it ‘Home'”
That’s what I long for, to finally go home.
We often joke about the fact that in the Rapture there will be no packing and houses to close up, no kerosene fridges to shut down, no luggage to pack, list to make, nothing to forget, nothing to move and check-in, no passports or visas, no security checks, or immigration points! Nothing – just home, home at last.
Let’s think about some other folks that were strangers.
1. Abraham was an alien and even had to buy a site to bury his wife Sarah. By faith Abraham was a stranger – by faith he saw his real home (Gen. 12:1; 23:4; Heb 11:8-10,13-16).
2. Moses was a stranger all his life. An alien Hebrew in an Egyptian court for 40 years. A refugee in Midian for 40 years. A transient in the Sinai for 40 years. Yet he wrote of his dwelling place in Psalm 90:1: “Lord you have been my dwelling place throughout all generations.” This is a Godly attitude.
3. John the Baptist was the original nonconformist, he marched to a different drummer, saw a different world. He was the original nonconformist, a genuine free thinker. He adhered to Romans 12:2 which says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world” (cf. Matt. 3:4-6; Lk. 7:28). Our home as Christians, after all, is heaven, not this world. We are not going to live forever in this world.
4. Jesus was a stranger in this world. Jesus said in Matthew 8:20-21, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Having no “nest” is the cost of following Jesus (from my experience, our “nesting instinct” is one of the biggest hindrances to mission work).
5. Paul the apostle shows us that being homeless on this earth is part of the job of an apostle (1 Cor. 4:11). He also reminds us to “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor 4:16-18).
The majority of the world thinks that the visible is the most important thing. Money, a house, a car, land, a job, a position, recognition–all the things, the visible things, the world considers important. If we genuinely believe that the invisible is eternal, we will be a stranger in this world.
I am a stranger in this world because I believe the invisible is more important than the visible. “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).
6. Peter says, “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul” (1 Pet. 2:11-12). Peter says we are strangers and should behave as such.
7. James is very clear on this subject, as is typical for James. James 4:4 says: “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (see also Jn. 17:14-16; Rom. 8:7; 1 Jn. 2:15).
Samuel Rutherford said, “If we were not strangers here the hounds of the world would not bark at us.” When I was growing up everybody had hounds that ran loose around the yard and would bark at strangers. How many of you remember that? Nowadays they have to be tied up. But those same hounds would not bark at us kids when we would come home but would come running for a pat or a scratch.
The world is threatened by us. We are of another world. They bark at us because we threaten their sinful desires and lifestyles. As John 3:20 says, “Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” We are to be in the world but not of the world (see 1 Cor 5:10). We are to be a boat or ship on the water but not have the water in the boat.
I am a poor wayfaring stranger – this world is not my home. I’m just a pass’en through. So we don’t lose heart (2 Cor. 4:16-18), we continue to labor (1 Cor. 15:58) because we know an eternal reward is coming (Matt. 10:40-42; 19:28-30)! In fact, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9).
So, keep in mind everything is either a tool or an idol. And everything is going to burn.
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (Jn. 15:18)
“For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Heb. 13:14).