The later it gets, the harder it gets. The words on the pages of my homework have started to blur like toner streaks on bad photocopies. Even Red Bull can’t fix this kind of weariness. Ministry terms rush by in my reading like contextual, incarnational, reciprocal, communal, relevance, counterculturist, transformationist, etc. All of them have complex submenus of their own. All describe how Christians ought to engage their world while staying true to the gospel. Since I’m not exactly a Johnny-come-lately on the ministry scene, I’m familiar with how these work in real life ministry. One good thing about seeking higher education after you’ve already gotten considerable experience is that you get to put a name on all the stuff you’ve done wrong.
I’ve been in fellowships that made no effort to engage culture (unless you want to count going house-to-house and showing people theology diagrams through their screen doors). Any more ambitious attempts were denounced as worldly or labeled as “sell-out Christianity.” We ended up living inside a biosphere, doing things that seemed strange to outsiders and getting mad if anyone challenged them. Looking back on these things, I realize a lot of the pain and misunderstanding Christians suffer is probably self-inflicted. Not much of it has to do with the evil of unbelievers, the work of God, or any deliberate plot of the devil.
Regardless of what we Christians do, though, a few specific constants will always guarantee a level of discomfort—legitimate discomfort. This will happen even as we try to compensate for past weirdness by doing things like restructuring our church meetings. It will occur as we hang out at Starbuck’s, striking up relevant conversations with dudes who have large holes in their ear lobes. Go ahead and lay on the hippie chutzpah nice and thick. You’ll still never escape a certain type of discomfort.
First of all, we are elect, according to the foreknowledge of God (1 Pet. 1:1-2). In this current culture, that means being on the wrong team. Hanging around with God is a little bit like sitting with the wrong person at the school lunch table. It’s eventually going to be noticed. Unfortunately, not everybody is on the best of terms with God the Father. By extension that means they won’t feel very chummy toward you, either. Even if you invite them to come sit at your table, it won’t be taken well. You’re on Team God, which automatically guarantees awkwardness.
Second, the Holy Spirit sanctified you, influencing you toward holiness (1 Pet. 1:2). You gravitate in the direction of Jesus and divine, eternal things. Probably worse than hanging out with God, this means you act like Him. Nothing could be closer to wearing a ‘kick me’ sign than this one. Face it: Biblical standards are as out of place in this world as plaid blazers. They bother people.
Third, the Spirit’s activity moved you to obey Jesus and get sprinkled in His blood (1 Pet. 1:2). That effectively freed you from the penalty of sin and set in motion your freedom from the daily power of it. In a land of captives, the freedman is odd indeed. Where’s your baggage, your chains, your yoke, and the cloud of condemnation that ought to cover you like Pigpen in the Peanuts comic strip?
The bottom line is that the Holy Trinity—Father, Holy Spirit, and Son—made you strangely glorious. It’s etched into your spiritual identity now. And believe it or not, as 1 Peter plays out, your strangeness is the only hope would-be critics will have at seeing God’s work up close in another human being.
Please don’t try to “fix” yourself.