When I was growing up, I was a little bit like a chameleon. I took on slightly different personalities depending on who I was around. I appeared different, depending upon where I was. I tried to “blend in” to my surroundings, because I wanted to fit in.
Motivated by my insecurities, I spent a lot of time pretending to be someone I wasn’t. One of the dangers, though, is that if you pretend long enough, you start to morph into that person you are pretending to be.
No doubt the worst environment I was in was on the bus to and from school. The Bus offers a unique educational “opportunity” as kids of all ages, Kindergarten up to 12th grade, are concentrated in close quarters, supervised only by a singular adult who, by the way, has to maneuver this monstrosity through traffic (many times in bad weather) and has to execute the bus route.
As a result, conversations go unmonitored, and kids openly talk about all kinds of things they shouldn’t. Not only is the content of conversation, so is the way that kids talk to one another. Put-downs, threats, cursing, etc. Kids try to act tough, they try to act more grown up than they are, and they certainly don’t want to come off as weak or juvenile.
So, when I was on the bus, that’s the way I acted. I talked about things I didn’t really know anything about. I talked a big talk, I tried my best to present myself as a tough guy, and as a result said a lot of mean things to people to try to fit in. In my mind it was a “dog eat dog” world and I needed to act like a dog to survive.
But the reality was that I didn’t fit in, at least, I shouldn’t have. That’s not who I was. But it was who I was becoming. See, instead of being true to myself, I started to change who I was to fit into the mold of that environment.
In the book of 1 Peter, Peter is addressing a group of believers who are struggling to fit in. They have been marginalized by society, they are beginning to experience persecution. As a result, Peter addresses them as “aliens and strangers.” However, this designation isn’t merely descriptive… its actually prescriptive.
1 Peter 2:11 says, Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits.
Peter exhorts them to live as aliens and strangers. He invites them to embrace this identity. He doesn’t want them to “fit in” with the rest of society…he wants them to stand out!
Peter’s address for these Christians as “aliens and strangers” is akin to the DC Talk song from way back in 1995, “Jesus Freak.” The lyrics ask:
What will people think when they hear that I’m a Jesus Freak?
What will people do when they find out its true?
I don’t really care if they label me a Jesus Freak.
There ain’t no disguising the truth.
Just like Peter did with “aliens and strangers,” DC talk took something that was a derogative term, “Jesus Freak,” and embraced it.