One of the greatest, if not the greatest, sifi book I have ever read is called “Stranger in a Strange Land.” It is the best-selling novel by Robert Heinlein. Of all the books I had read in college, this book had a profound influence on my life. If you have never read the book, I suggest you buy it and read it – it is amazing. Why is it amazing? Because it will make you think. You see, I read the book right before I became a Christian. It affected my life so deeply that I found my understanding of who we are as followers of The Way based on the actions of the main character; you have to read it to understand what I mean. In the second letter attributed to Peter he writes, “friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.[2:11-12].” What Peter is telling us is that we are “strangers in a strange land,” to be in the world, but not of the world, and we need to act accordingly. How do we do that? I am certain there are many ways, and I am certain some will disagree with the ways I am suggesting – but I would like to share with you my views on how we act like “strangers in a strange land.”
First, I believe we need to stand for what is right – not “justice” – and seek social change. You see, I believe we are to be a “just” people, but we are not to seek “justice.” Justice is a human idea, and there is little we can do to escape the idea that justice is “even.” But in God’s love we are never given justice, we are given grace. Because if we are demanding others give us “justice” then all we can ever get is equal to what we have given, and that is never enough. In Christ we are given grace, salvation and a walk of faith that allows us to see the face of God on our journey – if we were to seek “justice” we would never see that wonder in our lives. So, for me I do not seek “social justice” I seek “social grace.”
Second, I believe we also need to embrace the unclean of our day. That means we need to visit people in the hospital and love on those who are hurting, wondering, seeking, thinking, and outside the love of our community. We need to visit those in prisons, literal prisons, and seek to help them to walk in the light – we need to give water to those who thirst, and we need to feed those who hunger – we need to honestly and openly work on helping people meet their physical needs long before we meet their spiritual needs – Jesus did, he always was concerned about the person on earth before he was concerned about the person going to heaven.
Third, I believe we need to honestly and openly confess our sins and strive to walk a solid path of light, without fear of those in our community pushing us to the side and tagging us with some certain letter. You see, too many times we tell people to be open and confess their sins, and the second they do we toss them aside like damaged good never to speak with them again. Over my life time I have met more people who have been hurt by those in the church, then those outside the church – we need to be different, we need to be willing to forgive, even before being asked to forgive.
Fourth, we need to be willing to exchange our lives, for the lives of others and this one is the hardest – who among us is willing to die for a stranger? Is that not the same question Paul asked? You see, we may desire to “inconvenienced” for a short time for a friend, but who is willing to give their lives for a complete stranger?
We need to walk in a counter-cultural direction and stand firm on the issues facing us as a people of faith- it is not that we are demanding that others follow our way; it is that we just will not follow their way. You see, social justice demands that others follow our point of view – but if the person changes, social grace comes to life.