Strangers are immediately recognized in a neighbourhood. What reveals their identity so quickly? There are many factors. Their dress, behaviour, patterns of speech or different language, questions they ask for directions, sometimes their own confession that they come from another part of the land all help identify them as strangers. Though they are now in our part of the land, they don’t belong here.
Yes, that is what Peter had in mind when he wrote: “Live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear” (1 Peter 1:17 NIV). As Christians, we are living in this world, but we do not really belong here. When others talk with us, sooner or later, they will recognize that we are other-worldly or heavenly-minded. Sometimes they make fun of us. But that is only a small price to be paid for our privilege to belong to our heavenly citizenship (Philippians 3:20). Those who oppose you have their mind on earthly things. That is why they talk against you.
There are at least three areas where your life as strangers on earth get reflected.
One is your lifestyle. So many people including Christians live as if this world is their permanent home. The kind of houses they build, the things they buy and take pride in, all reflect the importance they attach to earthly things. Of course, we need a lot of things in life. But we need to evaluate what are the things that we need as most essential. Somewhere I read that a Christian is someone who measures his life by the number of things he can do without. Think of that today. How many things do you badly need for living a normal life? When you live as a stranger on earth, you will not be in slavery to material things.
The second area is the company you keep. We are all social beings. So we mix with people in society. That is what a Christian is called to do. Take Jesus to the marketplace and not live isolated lives. But that does not mean that we think like others after the worldly wisdom which teaches that life is to be lived in “eat, drink, and be merry” fashion. Many godly people in an eagerness to try to please their friends put their feet in two boats at the same time. On the one hand they hold on to Christ. On the other hand they want to please their friends. And when those two interests clash, pleasing friends is the attitude that wins. Thus they forget to live as strangers here on earth.
Thirdly, and most importantly, is your attitude towards money. Those who trust in God do not put their trust in riches. There is nothing wrong with money. The whole problem lies with the LOVE of money. It is a ROOT of all kinds of evil (see 1 Timothy 6:10). If the root is bad, then the tree is also bad. Jesus warned clearly that you CANNOT serve both God and money. He also said that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Furthermore he said, DO NOT STORE UP for yourselves treasures on earth. For moth and rust can destroy it and thieves can also break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19-24).
Instead, be heavenly-minded. Then quite naturally you will think and speak and act heaven’s way. And others would recognize it without your telling them that you are a child of Abraham who lived in tents like a stranger (Hebrews 11:9). The people of faith of those times admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth (Hebrews 11:13). So God is not ashamed to be called their God (Hebrews 11:16). How is your life in the light of these things? Are you living your life as a stranger here on earth?