If you are a Christian, do you get the impression that the unbelievers in your life think you’re strange? If so, do you have any idea why they think you’re strange? Is it because you’ve tried to anoint their heads with oil and pray over them? Or perhaps because you only wear ties to the office that are decorated with Jesus fishes or crosses? I certainly hope it isn’t because you compared Santa Clause to Satan after you saw the Christmas decorations in their yard last December. Of course, these examples are a tad extreme but it leads me to two important questions: “Should we live so that unbelievers see us as strange?” and “If so, what should make us strange in their eyes?”
I think the answer to the first question is “yes”. Paul tells us in Philippians 3:20 that “our citizenship is heaven” which implies that we should live like people who belong beyond this sin-scarred world. Peter also urges us to live a certain way in light of the fact that we are “aliens and strangers” in this world (1 Peter 1:11). So, yes, we should live in a way that seems strange to unbelievers because they are of this world and we are of heaven.
But what about the second question: what should make us strange in the eyes of unbelievers? In their book, Give Them Grace, Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson answer the question like this: “We don’t want to be known as the strange family that hates everything the neighborhood likes. We want to be known as the strange family that overflows with love, service, and joy” (p. 121). It’s not that Christians should exchange strangeness for normalcy, it’s that the strangeness should come from a fervent love that is directed toward our unbelieving neighbors, family members, co-workers, etc. Peter tells us to “honor all people” and “keep [our] behavior excellent among the Gentiles (i.e. – unbelievers)” (1 Peter 2:12, 17). Sadly, the Church is too often deemed strange because of all the things we have a problem with. The right way to handle this stigma, however, is not to begin loving the things God hates, but rather to have our love be so strong that it is what is most striking about us.