Almost every country has a slang word for a foreigner. In Thailand it is “farong,” in Brazil it is “estrangeiro,” in Spanish it is “gringo.” A stranger is one who is on the outside, who speaks a different language and who has different ways about them. They don’t always know the ways of the “locals.”
And in Scripture, this is a good thing.
Peter in his first letter writes to God’s elect and calls them “strangers in the world.” He then says that since we call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially and are redeemed with something so precious as the blood of Jesus, that we should live our lives on earth as “strangers here in reverent fear.” So how are we to live as strangers?
My first thought is to think of contemporary culture. What would be considered “strange” in this country? Here are my thoughts:
- A couple who doesn’t live together before marriage
- A dating relationship where there is not sexual engagement until marriage
- A marriage that stays together, for life
- When a boss, supervisor or leader is not doing things well and others are slandering them, for a person to walk away and not become involved
- Where there’s been a wrong committed, that there would be forgiveness even when it is not asked for
- In tough economic times, that generosity would abound
- Instead of grumbling that there would be words of gratitude
All these things would be “strange” indeed in contemporary culture. But what does Peter say? Chapter two says that since we have been redeemed from our empty way of life and are born of imperishable see, we “therefore” are to rid ourselves of malice, deceit, hypocrisy envy and slander. And so what are the polar opposites of these destructive behaviors?
- Forgiveness instead of malice
- Genuineness instead of deceit
- Integrity instead of hypocrisy
- Contentment instead of envy
- Encouragement instead of slander
If we lived this way, indeed we would grow to become ever more “strangers in the world,” ones who are on the outside, those who speak a different language, have a different way about us and do not participate in the ways of the “locals.” And this, for those who love Jesus, is a very good thing.