I have mentioned before that I enjoy reading or watching science fiction stories. For me it is pure escapism. A way of getting away from everyday life and serious things. A trip into the imaginary worlds of far, far away and long in the not-so-possible future.
In some of these stories aliens comes to live on earth and create all kinds of problems for himself or for the people among whom he lives. Usually these aliens are nothing like the humans and their differences are a cause of fear, suspicion and conflict. No, it is not easy for an alien in a society of which he is not native. That is true of people of earth who move from one country to another. Not being familiar with the laws, customs, and/or language the country of one’s residence can create problems.
It is like that for Christians. Jesus told his disciples of their true status in the world was just before he was crucified. They were not of the world. They did not belong to the then present order of things valued and used by society in general. They belonged to a different realm. They were different. Those differences can and do create problems for the resident alien. (A resident alien is a foreigner who is a permanent resident of the country in which he or she resides but does not have citizenship).
“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19).
People who live in a culture not their own often need help. On that same occasion Jesus prays the Father on their behalf …
“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” (John 17:14).
He does not ask the Father to take them out of the world and take them to the place of their citizenship but to keep and protect them from the enemy who rules in the world of their sojourn.
“I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” (John 17:15-16).
Every follower of Jesus is an alien in this world. Our citizenship is in another realm. We belong in another kind of world – a world that is entirely different from this world.
“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,” (Philippians 3:20).
But why are we here then? If we belong to heaven, why are we left here in this world where there is so much danger and where we are hated by the citizens of this realm? Some Christians seem to believe that since we are strangers to the world; that since we are “just a passing through” they only need to bide their time until the Lord comes to snatch us off the earth and take us to our real, eternal home. But is that how we are to live here in this present world? Are we to just keep a low profile and hope no one notices that we are really aliens – that we really are not like them? Do we just try to “blend in” with the larger society around us so as to not call attention to ourselves?
To do that would really be to live in fear of being discovered and identified by our differences. With an alien from outer space that might be the best idea. (Sometimes these space aliens are depicted as being able to transform their appearance to look human in order to avoid discovery and to allow them to go about accomplishing their nefarious plans without being discovered).
For the Christian this just won’t work. We are put here so that we might be seen … well, not so WE might be seen, but so the One who brought us into citizenship in the heavenly realm might be seen. We are to be to the world as light.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
The world is depicted as being in darkness.
“I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness” (John 12:46).
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
This all means for us that we have a mission in this world in which we are resident aliens. We are representatives of the world of which we are citizens. We are expected to show what our true homeland, the Kingdom of Heaven is like. We are to point up the contrast between the two worlds. That is the point of being light in a dark world. We are to be a constant reminder to the present world of what the world to come will be like so that they will want to be a part of it.
The world of which we are presently residents is not the material creation of which God said, “It is good.” It is the order of things that man has created for himself apart from God and his will for his good creation. It is that system that offers, promotes, encourages and accepts all kinds of things contrary to God and his purposes. This world is at enmity with God.
Therefore the Christian is warned about the dangers of living in a world that is against God and the interests of his kingdom. Those who seek to make friends with this world are warned of the danger of doing this…
“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4).
As Christians, we are not to become so enamored with this world that we allow it to overcome our allegiance to God’s kingdom.
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15-17).
Oh, the world has a certain attraction. It offers us desirable things. It will lure the unsuspecting into a deadly love affair with promises of pleasures and satisfactions it cannot deliver. Many have been the gullible, unsuspecting souls who have been lured into the trap because of the glitz and glamor her advertisements portray. But it is all a trap designed to defeat us and prevent us from fulfilling our mission of showing the image of God in our likeness to and work for Jesus Christ.
There is no such thing as holding dual citizenship in both the world and the kingdom of God. God will not accept a divided loyalty. With him it is all or nothing.
“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”(Matthew 22:37).
John makes it plain that the world – the present order of things – is not an enduring thing. It is “passing away.” It is always in the process changing and of passing away. It cannot endure because it is not of God. Anything that is not of God will come to an end.