Cultural Pressure: living as strangers and aliens

Stand Out From the Crowd

[This is part of a series on “How Do I Develop an Apostolic Leader?” You can read the other posts here.]

By Chris Nichols

I Peter 2:9-11

11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. 12 Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge. 13 For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, 14 or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. 16 As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. 17 Honor everyone.

If we are fully engaged in the missionary enterprise we will find ourselves at the front edge of life in dynamic interaction with the secular world.  At that confluence of worldviews we will be debated, misunderstood, “maligned as an evil doers,” feeling like a constant outsider. We never quite fit, pointed at as the one who doesn’t belong.  We often feel alone. It‘s easy to wonder if we’re in the right place, have the right message, or are in the right job.

We are discovering life as an alien and exile.

I’m encouraged that Peter understood our experience.  You can tell that he lived it by his exposure of the negative ways you can deal with the alienation you feel.  Don’t give in to “sinful desires, which war against your souls” Peter writes.  The very gifts that draw apostolic evangelists to the front lines can also cause us to careen off the healthy spiritual road into destructive reactions.  The confidence that often comes with this kind of giftedness can turn to arrogance and defiance.

Instead of accepting the foreigner’s life, we reject all the questions and withdraw behind a recalcitrant wall to protect us from hurt. Constant bombardment by those who assign evil motives to our actions can lead us to seek escape from our interior pain through activities that numb us for awhile but only deepen the hurt.  Repeated questioning of our clearly stated and often passionate theology and morals by those who strongly disagree and have far more power can tempt us to question the core of our beliefs.

We wonder if we are on the right track and our message loses clarity and we shy away from the open declaration of the truth.

The remedy, Peter says, is to live life in the open.

“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of wrong, they may see your good deeds an glorify God on the day he visits us.”

Rather than withdraw or change our theology to fit changing times, we are to live with compassion and hearts of service to the very people who hate us.  We are to live as good people, meaning people who are moral and virtuous, able to explain our motives even when our explanations evoke rage from those who hear them.

We are to continue to live among those who hate us and reject us, honoring them and their authority, without compromising our beliefs, monitoring our hearts so that we rid ourselves,

“of malice, and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.”(I Peter 2:1).

All that is possible because we are called then to remember who we are.  We are, “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.”  And so we go back to those Jesus loves and for whom he died and are able to willingly give our lives as he did.

It is the alien’s life.

How are you navigating the tensions of the alien life?

[This is part of a series on “How Do I Develop an Apostolic Leader?” You can read the other posts here.]

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About Chris Nichols

Chris has been developing apostolic ministry among students for 33 years, first in CA and now in New England. As Regional Director for IVCF New England he is responsible for calling out and developing gifts for ministry that advance the gospel. He's married to Ellen and father to Nate and David.


  1. I appreciate these timely words. Thank you! I find it far too easy to retreat, and am especially challenged by your reminder “to live with compassion and hearts of service to the very people who hate us.”

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