Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.
– 1 Peter 2.11-12
I like to run. I live in the city, not in a subdivision but amongst older homes organized into neighborhoods in the more traditional sense, and I run on sidewalks and running paths the vein the city of Denver. I live in a cute community, older homes that are well kept and fun to look at for their variety. But there is one house that I pass on a regular basis that just does not fit in. And it is not the house, but it is the fact that they use the small plot of ground between the sidewalk and the street to grow corn. Yes, corn.
I grew up in the country and we always had a large garden. My roommate keeps vegetables on the side of the house, but this stands out! It simply doesn’t belong there.
Yesterday I was reflecting on our responsibility to share the truth boldly and verbally as part of who we are: aliens. We are to be in the world but not of the world. We know when something does not belong. Corn does not belong on a city street. Do people know that you do not belong in the world? Can someone observe you and know that the Earth is not our home (Heb 13.14)?
I think that we hear this general instruction a lot, but little help is offered as to what exactly that means. Do we create a new monastery where we wear robes, sing chants and remove ourselves from daily interaction with the world? Do we start making our own clothes, stop using electricity and focus on dominating the Earth? Do we, as one tribe I know of in the world, reject all forms of social structure including clothing, education and buildings in order to live as closely as possible to the way in which Adam and Eve lived when God created them?
“What we must do is to outdo the world in honesty, kindness, gentleness, usefulness, moderation of spirit, charity, compassion and readiness to help others in their need.”
– John Owen
But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.
– 1 Peter 3.14-16
I love the fulness of the picture that Peter paints for us here in that we have hope in Jesus Christ and have been transformed. Because of that transformation and separation from the world, we will be slandered or persecuted, and on the grounds of our response to our persecution – faith, hope and love – people will see that we truly are different and will ask about the hope. When we answer about our hope with gentleness and reverence, those who slander or persecute us will be shamed because our hope is sincere and they proved unable to nullify our witness.
Were all Christians meek, quiet, peaceable, sober, self-controlled, humble, useful, kind, gentle, willing to listen to all, cheerful in trials and troubles, always ‘rejoicing in the Lord’, then the world would not take offense at them, but wonder how any could live without them, and so be won over to them, making every effort to be like them. If honesty, sincerity and uprightness were seen among Christians on every occasion, how greatly it would glorify Christ!
– John Owen
How then do we show that we do not belong? By exemplifying the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, but loving as Christ loved, by preaching the Gospel at every occasion, and by maintaining our witness even in the midst of trials and tribulations. They will know we are Christians by our love (John 13.35), and love never fails (1 Cor 13.8). And we maintain this by not loving the things of the world, as we cannot love the things of the world and love God (1 John 2.15, Matt 6.24). Let’s be the corn growing on the city street.