Christians must be aliens!
As I contemplate an upcoming trip to Brazil, my mind drifts back to the experiences that my family had while we lived in Brazil in years past. We learned a lot about the culture and the language of the people there, but we never really felt that we "belonged." Just about the time that we would begin to feel comfortable, some new situation with the accompanying unfamiliarity of vocabulary or cultural norms would remind us that we were indeed "aliens" in Brazil. The Brazilian people in general were kind to us and accommodating, but even fluency with their language didn’t erase the fact that, in many ways, we didn’t fit in.
I remember vividly the feeling that I had when we returned to live in the United States and arrived in the Atlanta airport. The "look" of a North American setting and the sound of English being spoken was comforting and reassuring. Despite the impersonal nature of airports, we belonged!
Sticking out like a sore thumb is uncomfortable. Being different from others often draws unwelcome attention to oneself; it is no wonder that children want to dress and talk like their peers. With some exceptions, we tend to want to blend in with those who are around us.
Christians can’t do that. They are "aliens" in the sense that their citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20) and they cannot "blend into" the world here without losing that citizenship. Peter described the Christians who were his readers as "sojourners and pilgrims," begging them that they "abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation" (1 Peter 2:11-12). Christians live "in" the world, but they must not be "of" or like the world.
We tried hard to "fit in" in Brazil and did so with limited success. The Christian, on the other hand, will stand out when seen against the backdrop of worldly or fleshly practices and God intends for it to be that way. Not only is the Christian qualitatively different from those who serve Satan, but Christians are to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13-14). Their different allegiance and resultant lifestyle is intended to influence others. As soon as they become like those who do not serve Jesus Christ, they cease to be light and cannot help those who are in darkness (Philippians 2:14-15).
The danger for Christians is that we have a tendency to "get comfortable" with evil practices in this world. When our allegiance is tested, it may be that we no longer wish to stand out from the world (2 Timothy 4:10).The more we "fit in" to the worldly environment, the more that sin creeps into our lives, the less we look forward to going home where our citizenship actually is.