Not Fitting In?
John Piper once stated in a sermon that for years, Christians once had the “home field advantage” in America. Meaning, that for a season to be a Christian in America was beneficial; it was a good thing in America. It meant you were trustworthy, kind, upright, loving, and it didn’t bring any reproach to be a Christian. There was little cause for feeling out of place; after all, this is America, and we are a country founded upon Judeo Christian values, right? We are those that people went to when seeking counsel, comfort, and needing help.
But over the last few years in America specifically, there have been more experiences of a noticeable shift in the minds of the populace. If you are a Christian, you probably feel out of place in America at times; you don’t fit in. There is a strangeness to being a Christian in America, almost as if America isn’t Christian after all. Instead of the homeland, this may feel more like a Babylon: the land of exile. If there are times where you feel out of place, like a stranger or an alien, take heart and be encouraged! This is a sign of your sonship, your adoption, you’re being chosen out of the world, and your resemblance of the Son of God.
A Display of God’s Love
The book of 1 John speaks delightfully sharp to this matter. The Apostle writes this, “The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him” (1 John 3:1b). There is a reality in that the world truly does not know us. We are odd people, a peculiar people. Like strangers and aliens to this world, heavenly minded, heaven desiring, and an other-worldly DNA, it would seem. This is not by accident, but an act, a sign of God’s peculiar and focused love upon you, Christian. Look at 1 John 3 gain in full: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason the why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared.; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:1-2).
We are unknown in the world; they do not know who we are. And yet, what is the cause of this feeling? The love of the Father in calling us to himself, to make us children of God! We genuinely do not fit in the world because we are no longer a child of wrath (cf. Ephesians 2:1-3). We are a child of God, the holy and omnipotent Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Feeling out of place in the world and as a stranger is a sign of your sonship, your seal of the Spirit, and the fruit of his work in your heart. Rejoice in feeling peculiar! Those before us did not shame at this feeling, instead they “acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth…they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:13, 16).
The most magnificent truth is that though we may feel shame and sorrow in this world, God is not ashamed: “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:16, emphasis added). Your heavenly Father is not ashamed of your feeling out of place; as a matter of fact, it is by divine design.
Beloved, we are God’s children now, writes the Apostle John. Now. Our full adoption will consummate in the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:18). But now we are God’s, so we may be in the world, but as Jesus prayed for those whom the Father gave him, we are not of the world (John 17:14-16).
The Father has chosen you out of the world to live as strangers and exiles on the earth (1 Peter 2:11). We are a peculiar people; we are strange to the world. And conversely, the world ought to feel strange to us. This is not our homeland. Our terminus is not the house, the 401K, or the retirement life, that is not our end. Our end is unending; our goal is upward. You are in Christ now as one chosen from before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless to shine as stars in this crooked and perverse generation. Beloved, you are God’s; your life is hidden in Christ, not in the vain pleasures and fleeting pursuits of Vanity Fair. You speak another language, the language of Caanan (from The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan). You are sharing in Christ’s life. He came to his own and yet his own did not receive him — so, rejoice in so far as you share in Christ’s sufferings so that you may rejoice with exceeding joy when his glory is revealed!
Feeling out of place in the world as a Christian is a sign of the Spirit’s regeneration in you displayed through the world’s rejection of you. The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:9 writes this, “as unknown, and yet well known.” Christian, you are living as an exile, unknown by the world — and yet, you are well known. The Lord knows the way of the righteous (Psalm 1:6).