In 1961, Robert A. Heinlein published his best-selling science fiction novel, Stranger in a Strange Land. I read it a few years later when I was a student at Fort Scott Community College. The premise of this fictional and highly allegorical work is this: A young man, born on Mars and raised by Martians, suddenly is thrust into a society that is foreign. Heinlein paints a picture of someone struggling to find himself among a race of people with whom he shares little except a physical resemblance.
The title Stranger in a Strange Land is a reference to the Bible. In Exodus 2:22, Moses names his son Gershom, for "he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land." What does Moses naming his son have to do with a Martian trying to grasp human culture in the future? Not much on the surface, but the connections between Mike's and Moses' lives are numerous. Both are driven from their homelands at a young age. Both are given instructions to return to their homeland later in life? And once there, both attempt to liberate their people from social bonds.
As believers, we dismiss the flights of fancy of science fiction writers; however, there are times in every believer’s life when he or she is overwhelmed by the world in which they live. We truly are strangers in a strange land. Our values, ethics, concerns, and general worldview are inimical to that of the world. The ways of the World do not make sense in God’s Kingdom, and the ways of God’s Kingdom do not make sense in the world.
So often the world misunderstands what Christians say. It draws erroneous conclusions because it never takes the time to really listen carefully to the gospel message. Jesus said, "My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world" (Jn 18:36).
The early Christians were insulted and criticized for what they were doing and were even accused of treason. It was suggested they were actually advocating the overthrow of Caesar, which really was not the case. It was a complete misunderstanding of what the objectives of the Christians really were. Anyone who would give even a careful listen to what they were saying would realize these Christians were not seeking to establish an earthly kingdom. They were not seeking to overthrow Caesar or Rome.
Yet it is worth nothing that the first-century Christians made no attempts to conquer paganism by reacting blow by blow. Instead, they out-thought, out-prayed, and outlived the unbelievers. Their weapons were positive, not negative. They prayed, preached, and proclaimed the message of the gospel of Christ.
As Peter told the early Christians, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”
There have been numerous attempts throughout history to destroy the Christian faith. But they will always fail for one simple reason: Christianity is of Christ. He will prevail in the end and establish His kingdom. Because we are members of the body of Christ as well as citizens of the Kingdom of God, we will win in the end as well, and we have the Holy Spirit with us now to help us forward.
In the meantime, we ourselves will remain strangers in a strange land.