When I first moved to Bermuda, I was immediately labelled an “ex-pat”. This is a person who has left their country of origin to work somewhere else with a specific job to complete. I’ve always found “guest worker” to be a much more congenial term. Even though I fit in quickly to island life, I had conditions on my employment contract which limited the length of time I could stick around. I was only allowed to stay for 6 years. I wasn’t allowed to vote and I couldn’t buy property. I didn’t have citizenship, so I didn’t have the rights of a Bermuda national. Things changed when I married a Bermudian citizen. I was able to apply for any job I wanted, I still couldn’t vote or buy property independently, but I had more freedom as the “Spouse of a Bermudian” than I had as just a foreigner. I was kind of in between two worlds.
It’s the same way for us as believers, except that we’re not in the spousal category, we are the foreigners here on Earth. Christians are not of this world says the Bible. We are strangers who are passing through to our ultimate dwelling in Heaven. When we become born-again, our citizenship changes from earthly to heavenly. I blended into island life pretty quickly. That’s easy to do in a place as beautiful as Bermuda. I could blend in amongst Bermudians, until I started talking and my accent gave me away. Are we supposed to synthesize with the world? What is it about you that would give you away as a stranger on this earth? Are christians supposed to dress differently than everyone else? Are we to adhere to certain dietary restrictions? Should we separate ourselves from the world and live amongst ourselves? Those are a lot of questions, but if we don’t understand where this difference lies, we can find ourselves missing the point of this verse.
We aren’t of this world, so we don’t get the rights and privileges of this world. The Word tells us that Satan is the “god of this world”. Does that mean he’s in charge here on earth? No, God is ultimately in charge of everything, but what it does mean is that he controls the mindsets and philosophies of the world and these are in direct opposition to the mind of Christ. This world is not set up for christians. If you don’t believe me, just look at the direction things have gone in terms of morality, sanctity of life and other issues. Satan has an agenda, and those who are not Christ’s are his pawns in fulfilling it. What should give us away as non-belongers is the fact that our way of thinking, and by extension acting, is a result of our heavenly citizenship. The Bible says we are going to be hated for the sake of Christ. People should know that you’re a christian because your mindset is different than theirs. I’ve been ridiculed for my christianity and I’ve lost friends over it as well, but I can’t say I’ve directly experienced hatred. I thank God for the freedoms we have in our country, but compared to countries where christians are being persecuted, it doesn’t seem as though we are achieving much for the Kingdom of God. Does persecution water the ground for christianity and cause its growth?
So I go back to the question, what sets me apart from the non-believers in the world? My speech and my conduct should look different than one who doesn’t know Christ. More than these external out-workings though, the Spirit of God bears witness to my spirit that I am His child. Heaven is in my heart and this is like the stamp I received when my immigration status changed. My place in this world is temporary and is only to prepare me for the one to come, but while I am here, I will fulfill the mission God has sent me here for and hope that I never blend in.