Her boss had given her some expenses from a personal event. “Can you figure out where to fit these into our business budget?” he asked her. When she looked over the receipts, she raised a question about how they fit into the business plan. “I asked you to figure out how to include these expenses into the books. Don’t ask questions, just do it!”
These types of ethical dilemmas aren’t new. Christians have found themselves in strange places because we want to set apart Christ as Lord, honouring him in our words and actions. But when an unbeliever insists that we act contrary to our beliefs, the derision comes.
In the days of the early church, unbelievers were puzzled by the ethical choices of Christians, and over time grew in outrage by the failure of believers to join in the everyday normal activities that were part of Greco-Roman society. Persecution of Christians was not so much a state-sponsored threat that robbed Christians of their welfare. Instead, it began with the social pressure to conform. First it began with confusion, then derision, and then ostracization.
Over time, the ethical choices of following King Jesus mark out a different way of living. Derision can come you won’t cheat on a test. When you abstain from mocking political leaders. When you excuse yourself from an inappropriate movie. When you don’t laugh and crass humour. When you won’t join in gossip. When you miss a Sunday sporting event.
Unless we are willing to be different and face the consequences, we’ll never make those hard decisions and will never show that we are convinced of the gospel and the beauty of Christ.
Being an exile means that you constantly feel how you are different and that you are an outsider. Peter understood how great the pressure was to bow to social norms, resulting in a loss of the unique identity we bear as Christ followers.
To be an exile is central to our calling. We are strangers. This good news reminds us that this world is not our home, that our longings and desires are for a heavenly city. We live for that Day, not merely this day. We live knowing that there is a better city and country where perfect peace and justice reigns. And as we live as strangers and exiles in this world, we declare our allegiance to the kingdom that is coming where peace and justice will reign.
Living for that Day,
Missional Action Prayer: Lord, help me to live as a stranger in this world, valuing what you value, and loving what you love, so that I might show that Christ is enough for me. Amen.