From an early age, I felt like a fish out of water. Growing up as a Christian in a very secular city, I was aware of a handful of other believers in my high school. My family’s religious practices – going to church on Sundays, reading the Bible after dinner, taking a day of rest once a week – were strange compared to my neighbours.
There are times where being a follower of Christ feels quite different. When you’re out for dinner at a restaurant, do you just dig in or stop and pray? Does Sunday look like every other day of the week for you, or is it a day of worship and rest?
When Peter wrote to fellow Christians, he expected that his fellow Christians would be out of step with the broader culture. “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance…” Peter would tell them in 1 Pe. 1:14. We have been called out of darkness and into the light of Christ (1 Pe. 2:9b). Therefore, Christians will make moral choices that seem discordant with the surrounding culture. Our distinctiveness is not being different for the sake of standing out, but to commend the gospel. Our witness depends on our faith making a mark on our public choices.
At present, it’s still tolerated to pray over your meal at a restaurant and to open a Bible at a coffee shop. Increasingly these actions feel out of place. We might wonder if people are looking at us funny. But what happens when you don’t participate in social events celebrating sexual choices that God forbids? Christians have often found themselves out of step with the sexual ethics of their times. Peter would say to believers, “The time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you” (1 Pe. 4:3-4). These trials should not surprise us, as if something strange were happening to us (see 1 Pe. 4:12). If they persecuted Christ, we should not be surprised that Christianity will be so offensive to others (see Jn. 15:18).
Since Christ suffered in the flesh, Peter tells us to arm ourselves with the same way of thinking (1 Pe. 4:1) – that our witness to the gospel and the difference it makes will put us out of step with the surrounding culture. But our ‘strangeness’ is a fragrance of hope to those who find the choices of this world to be unsatisfying and even hurtful (2 Cor. 2:16). For our ‘strangeness’ may just be the good deeds that reveal the glory of Christ to a world in desperate need of a better way – a way that leads to life eternal!
Praying we keep in step with Christ,
Missional Action Prayer: Lord, make my life to be a life that has the fragrance of Christ so that those who live with regrets, disappointments, and dissatisfaction might know that there is a way of life found in you. Amen.