A.W. Tozer said, “A real Christian is an odd number anyway.” The Apostle Peter addresses us as “aliens and strangers in the world” (1 Peter 2:11). What a strange thing to say to creatures that bleed red and are standing on planet Earth. We’re not extraterrestrials, for crying out loud. So if we’re not from here, then where are we from?
It isn’t that I can’t relate to feeling like an alien, or at least recognizing others as aliens. Being born and raised in the great Lone Star State of Texas does provide one with a certain advantage over the rest of the world. There’s a bumper sticker that says, “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as soon as I could.” Every time I drove my family from Missouri to Houston, in fact, and traversed the Oklahoma-Texas border and saw that beautiful stone monument of the Texas Lone Star, I’d make them salute.
When I began my first preaching ministry back in Missouri, I quickly learned that a suit and tie was not the proper dress for the average man. I immediately went out and bought more jeans–and overalls. I learned to carry a bandana to wipe my brow for the times when I was standing out in the cornfield talking with a farmer.
There were many occasions before I made some of these changes when I elicited expressions that said loud and clear, “I don’t think that boy is from ’round here.”
Think about it. Author Gary Moon asks, “Isn’t this precisely what Jesus was up against? He came to earth from a foreign culture to find followers who would be willing to exchange their ways (those of the world) for his (the culture of the kingdom).” That cultural exchange program presented a contrast far greater than what exists between the customs of a native Texan and the rest of the country and world.
Jesus came to earth looking for folks willing to become odd for God—different from the world—and He still is. It’s been a tough sell for nearly 2,000 years. Gary Moon offers this quip: “If we actually try on such a different way of life, we’re going to appear more out of place than a hula skirt at a Mennonite barn raising.”
What if our main reason for being here is to experience life as a transforming friendship with God, daily learning how to reign and rule with God forever? In that case, what is normal in the world may well appear abnormal or odd in the Kingdom, and vice versa. In the world it’s all about climbing the ladder of success. In the Kingdom it’s all about descending into greatness (Philippians 2:1-11).
Jesus’ kingdom is an upside-down kingdom. If you want to be the greatest you must become the least. If you desire to get up in the world, you’ve got to go down. If you want to be first, you must be willing to be last. If you want to find your life, you must lose it for Jesus’ sake.
Jesus wasn’t liked by everyone. The same holds true for His followers. Jesus says, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you BECAUSE OF ME” (Matthew 5:11; also read Matthew 10:22 and 1 Peter 4:14). Following Jesus isn’t about being popular. It’s about—in the end—hearing Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:23a). So go ahead, be odd for God. It’s all part of being in His upside-down kingdom.
Hank Lamb is senior pastor of Central Christian Church in Richardson.