What is a stranger to you? Is this person unfamiliar to you? Are their ways foreign to you and your understanding? To others’ understanding? To the world’s?
A stranger in the eyes of others carries a peculiarity of character, beliefs, and actions. He does not do the things that many of us do, the things that have become habitual to us. His actions reflect a character that can be pleasing or aversive to us. When confronted with such a person, we naturally want to know more about him. We either seek this understanding directly from him or through indirect means.
As we are continuously exposed to this foreigner, the desire grows in to know this person on a more personal (sometimes intimate) level. We create opportunities for interaction with this person. We learn more about him and his worldview. His model character awakens within others a desire to have such traits within ourselves. Bonds are formed and the stranger has become (in some ways) like a member of the family.
But as life progresses, these strangers are called to depart from us (a new job, caring for an elderly member of the family, etc.). News of this stranger’s imminent departure elicits varying emotions within others, positive and negative. The time they (the stranger and his many associates) have left becomes sacred. Everything they say and do is faithfully recorded in our minds, that we may draw on it in the days when this stranger is no longer with us.
Finally, the day comes for the stranger to leave. Fond farewells are given, gratitude is expressed, and gifts are presented. There is a mutual understanding among his fellows that they may never see him again. As such, their final moments are used wisely and lovingly. When the stranger departs, a feeling resonates among his friends, acquaintances, and coworkers that this person is going. It takes time to adjust to this truth, but their lives move forward.
But this stranger will always be among them. His strange example before them has planted a seed in their hearts. His character, his beliefs, and his actions are buried in their minds; dormant until they are cultivated by our recollections of him. Should they be cultivated consistently, our character would eventually come to reflect his.
Sometimes this growth is hastened when we receive tidings of this person. When we do, our memories of them are suddenly brought to the forefront of our minds and we seem to instantly recall everything we know of him. These memories are guides to navigate and process any information we receive of him. They help us determine whether or not the communications received about him are true.
When we hear this person maligned by others, we are quickly and readily able to come to his defense. When our personal testimony to these slanderers of our interaction with them is heeded, the stranger, for a time, is vindicated in their hearts. But as time passes and the reports of him become more negative, many of us are challenged. “Could they be true?”
Many slowly begin to accept what they hear and few remain loyal to their foreign friend. But none can question the impact that he made in their lives. They who know him directly cannot shut out their memories of him and their convictions of his character, belief, and actions. (Note this; you’ll need it later.).
The time spent with him is not easily erased by what they know to be falsehoods and eventually, their beliefs are vindicated. The reports are found to be false. Relief, love, and feelings of justification rise among those who believed in him. Guilt, shame, and a desire to be forgiven fill the minds of those who turned their backs to him. Others who knew him not weakly rationalize their antagonistic stance toward him. The matter, at last, has been settled and this stranger is cleared of the accusations waged against him.
But what was it in this stranger that encouraged others to keep their faith in him, despite these false reports? They are the same things that will be found in every faithful child of God in the days before Jesus’ Second Coming: godly character, beliefs based in the Scriptures, and actions in harmony with their faith in God.
People such as these truly are strangers in the world. They do not take part in the things that the world glorifies. They are not prone to constantly change their worldviews like reeds shaken in the wind. They act on what they believe, despite any opposition they face from friends, family, and even their fellow believers. By their God and His Scriptures, they eventually become strangers to the world. This is what our faith in God is designed to do.
If we truly understand this, then why are so many of us reluctant to become strangers to this world? Why do we want to be like everyone else if we understand our strange faith can (and will) save their lives? Why do we profess to follow Jesus, but live like we don’t know Him?
Our presence in bars, our addictions to illicit forms of entertainment and behavior, our hateful words and actions towards unbelievers, and even our very thoughts are not strange to this world: they are familiar to it. They are familiar because they are the very things that they do. Many of them have no shame in perpetuating this cycle of sin.
But to the astonishment of Jesus and they who inhabit the heavens, we do too. Take a moment and reflect upon the following question; “What are Jesus’ thoughts like when He watches His professed followers indulging sin as much as those who do not believe in Him?” Can one truly answer this question?
The sheer depth of the agony He goes through every day ministering for us must be beyond all human comprehension. Is this it, the culmination of our faith as His people? Is this what He died for His church to do? Profess a Christian faith while living a worldly life? Is this the kind of faith of they who claim to long for the Lord’s return?
There is a reason why we should live as strangers in this world. As seen earlier, the faith of the stranger (his character, beliefs, and actions) was a shining light to those who knew him. His reflection of Christ’s character helped him form tightly knit bonds with other men. They learned about Jesus through the example he set. When they desired his company, they were really desirous of knowing Jesus. When they praised his faith, it was Jesus who they were uplifting. When his faithful friends defended him from his accusers, it was Jesus who they were standing up for. When the accusations against the stranger were found to be false, it was Jesus who was vindicated and ultimately praised by the stranger’s faithful friends, family, and acquaintances. We should live as strangers to the world, faithful followers of God, because it will save their lives as well as ours.
We live in a world determined to shut this class of strangers out of it. But it will not be the hand of man that accomplishes this. It will be Jesus’ own followers who will do this, those among us doggedly determined to do as the world does. Why do we do this? Because we want to be like everyone else. We like what they do. We care more about uniting the church and the world together on issues common between us, a method of man’s (not God’s) design.
Our strange faith calls upon us to unite on God’s Word and our love for Him and one another. This is how the church will get on one accord. This is the union that the Holy Spirit will bless with His presence in the latter days. Through His indwelling presence in us, Jesus will succeed in separating the world from His church. This is how He will gather His strangers whose light will shine before all men and those whom the light touches.
As the world grows increasingly hostile to our strange faith, the Christian church must grow stronger in it. When will this happen? When will we, you, do this? Are we waiting for the coming crisis to spur us to action? Do you believe your friends, family, and acquaintances will instantly accept the faith of Jesus by a last-minute confession of faith? Your faith will not be strange to them. It will be familiar to them. You who were called to be a shining light lived as a child of darkness in the last days.
But just like this article, your story does not have to end this way. Remember the stranger. Though living out his strange faith drew the world’s enmity, it ultimately cleared him from the false charges of his accusers. It drew the people of the world to him and, ultimately, to Jesus. This is what living out our faith did in him and in his many associates. Might not this blessed example be yours? Think you that your sins prohibit this wonderful work within you from happening? God forbid, for the church would not have arisen if this were so. The world would have been purged of us by now if we were beyond all hope.
The multitude at Pentecost were also pricked in their hearts when they learned of the role they played in the crucifixion of Christ (I say “also” because we crucify Him also when we revel in sin while keeping up a facadeof faith.). They did not flee Jerusalem at the message of Peter as we do when we read and hear messages like these. They took action. “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37)
They, at Peter’s Spirit-filled counsel, repented of their sins and were baptized in Jesus’ name. They received the Holy Ghost, who transformed them from the inside out; and do you know what happened? They became strangers, children of light that brought many of their friends and family to this strange, transforming faith. They were no longer reeds shaken by the wind, pliable to bless Jesus at one moment and condemn at another (Is this not what many of us do today?). They became a people who were strangers to sinful passion and foreigners to worldly influence.
How many of you read or hear about the men, women, and even children in the Bible who did amazing feats of faith? If you live out this strange faith, you can also do such things for God! If this is a stranger’s duty and his reward on Earth, what greater reward will he receive but the kingdom of heaven?
Heaven belongs to the strangers of the world: the men, women, and children who live out their faith. Heaven is theirs and it can be yours, too. It can belong to everyone whom your light touches. But this strange light of our faith must shine in us before it can shine in others. It must rise in our hearts as the sun rises in the east. As it rises in us, it will rise in others. It will radiate in them. Through Christ working in you, you and all who you know can become children of light, strangers to the darkness of the children of men.
This is the true intention of our strange faith. It is not divine permission to sin, a means to observe pagan beliefs and holidays, or to unify with the world on common goals. It is the means to save the world and we are called to cooperate with Jesus in carrying out this work. Jesus is calling each one of us right now to embrace this strange faith we profess to have. What keeps us, you, from acting on what you tell men you believe? Know you not that you are the means which God has called to save your families, your friends, your coworkers, and even the world? This is your calling, to live out your strange faith. May God convict you to embrace this understanding, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
If you know someone who needs to read this, I encourage you to share this article. Whether it be a family member, friend, enemy, church, business, etc., please share this message and all that you read on this site. Your cooperation in this work will certainly deliver those would otherwise be lost. The day is at hand. Will the Lord’s find you among His strange people or with a world all too familiar with sin? May your response to this request answer the question affirmatively.