Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. 1 John 2:15-17 NLT
A few years ago I had baptismal studies with an elderly man named Oscar. He had just come to the United States from Guam but was actually already a U.S. citizen before ever stepping on American soil. Guam has its own government, but it is an unincorporated United States territory. This gave Oscar the opportunity to become a U.S. citizen before even setting foot on U.S. soil.
I had never heard of someone being a citizen of a country they had never been to before, but then it occurred to me that all Christians are citizens of a land they have never been to before. This world is not our home. The fact that the world is not our home could account for why we do not always fit in. It could explain why the world cheers at things that break our hearts and why we sometimes cheer and the world does not cheer with us.
When people move from other countries to the United States, I notice they like to keep a lot of their cultural traditions, especially foods. I watched a documentary a while back on the History Channel, talking about how food companies in America expected immigrants back in the day to start buying traditional American foods,. The documentary went on to say that never happened! So the American food companies had to start catering to the diet of the immigrants.
As citizens of heaven we find some cultural traditions in our communities pose no threat to our Bible standards, but many do. It is then that we need to remember to cling to our heavenly culture while living in another land. We need to remember we are the visiting team. Have you ever followed your favorite sports team to a road game? It is a totally different atmosphere than when you are watching them play at their home stadium. When you are on the road, you stand up and cheer when your team scores, but you cheer alone, because everyone else is for the home team. And when something happens to make the home crowd cheer, you just sit there. Everything seems backwards when your team is playing on the road. I have been to several Tampa Bay Rays baseball games over the years, and I notice how fans of the visiting team dress and behave. First of all you can tell they are not fans of the home team when you see them wearing shirts and ball caps with the visiting team’s logos. Funny that so many Christians try to blend in with the world by the way they dress, but sports fans visiting another team’s ballpark never try to blend in with the home crowd by the way they dress. They are proud of the team they represent; so they are proud to stand out from the rest of the crowd. As Christian, are we proud to stand out from the culture and crowd we are around? Fans of the visiting team don’t cheer when the home crowd cheers. They don’t try to blend in with the home crowd by the way they act either. As Christians we are the visiting team here on earth. Do we behave as we would back home in heaven, or do we try to behave like the world, hoping to blend in?
Now to stay balanced – the visiting team fans do follow general home field rules and cultural traditions. They all stand for the national anthem. They all stand for the 7th-inning stretch, and they all politely wait in line at the concession stands and wait their turn at the ticket counter. They don’t act differently just for the sake of being different. They only act differently when team loyalty is called into question. Likewise Christians should not be standing out just to look strange or weird. It does not help the cause of Christ when Christians act strange for no good reason. We should only act differently to make our loyalty to God clear.
As I am writing this, I am thinking of the many times a city or community has weathered a rough storm either literally or metaphorically, and they looked to their local sports team to lift their spirits and help put pride back in their community. Today with the COVID-19 affecting our communities, I could not help but think that we don’t even have sports now as a lighthearted way to lift our spirits. While some simple and even innocent pleasures of the world are now fading away as 1 John 2:17 describes, we now more than ever should be proud to belong to a God who always lifts our spirits. With ballparks and even church buildings that give us a sense of fellowship and lift our spirits are closed now, we still belong to a God who alone can lift our spirits and give us hope.
Do we dress and act here on this earth, the same way we would dress and act in God’s kingdom, where we belong?
As Christians, let’s let the world know that earth is not our home. While being as polite and pleasant to be around as possible, let it be known that our home is in heaven, not here. We do not blend in with the world because we are not a part of this world. Let’s not be afraid to look different and act different. Lets be as proud of the kingdom we belong to as visiting team fans are proud of the teams they belong to. Actually even more proud.
You may listen to and share the podcast version of this article here.