When you don't fit in, it's one of the most painful emotions a human being can experience.
We singles, especially, run up against the inevitable questions, "Why aren't you married yet?" Or "Maybe you're being too picky?" Or "Your (brother, sister, cousin, etc.) was married and had a baby when they were your age." And on and on.
Then you go to church and have to deal with the inescapable marriage sermons, couples' workshops, and other family-oriented events. Singles? Oh, them. Maybe we should mention them. But, uh, are their lives really biblical?
If you are a Christian, there's yet another reason you feel out of place, one I just discovered recently, and I'm 68 years old. Yeah. Slow learner. More on that later.
Let's see if we can go beyond the usual platitudes to something really meaningful, something you can hang onto that helps you cope with this.
There's an odd facet to the Bible. It was written in ancient societies,
and while God's word is timeless, some of those cultural rules are not
Take the ancient treatment of women. In Jewish culture, a woman's greatest goal was to have children, and lots of them. There were practical reasons for this: carry on the family line, provide more workers to help support the family, and provide warriors (sons) to defend the clan.
Today, many churches still think a woman's primary role is motherhood. You can see it in the emphasis on family and marriage. A woman who chooses career over motherhood is considered not only odd, but on the the verge of being sinful.
And that applies to single men, too. We're assumed to be immoral if we aren't married. Or we're depriving some single woman of her God-appointed role to be a mother.
In a number of Christian churches, ancient Middle Eastern culture is confused with biblical doctrine. Those churches would be happy to see women stay in the home, have a large family and take care of them full-time, as opposed to pursuing a career.
Many churches don't see singlehood as a vocation or way of life but as people not fulfilling their "proper" role.
Wait. Did I miss the Bible's criticism of Jesus, John the Baptist, John the apostle, Paul, Mary Magdalene, Mary and Martha and others as singles? Nope, I didn't miss it because it's not there. They played important roles and did it without being married.
People who feel insecure oppress others. People who feel secure empower others.
Don't confuse cultural traditions with biblical doctrine. Slavery occurred in the ancient world, but it was wrong. Debtors' prisons were common then, but they were wrong. We must recognize evil. Everything in the Bible should not be copied today.
If you are a Christian, there's another major reason you don't fit in. This world is not your home. Your true home is heaven, with like-minded people and your Savior. You are as out of place here as an alien from another planet.
Jesus warned us about that. We are citizens of the kingdom of heaven, not earth. We are foreigners and exiles here. Listen to his words:
"If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." (John 15:19, ESV)
All my life I knew I was a traveler here, but it never sank in until I recently read a book by Joseph M. Stowell titled Eternity. Stowell points out why Christians don't fit in here. We don't share the world's values. Instead, we observe kingdom values, and the two are incompatible:
That explained it for me! The light bulb went on. I finally understood why I couldn't make sense of the behavior I've been seeing around me. Those people embrace worldly values. They're simply acting in keeping with what they prize.
Until a person is saved, they are a citizen of this sin-sick kingdom, planet earth. They follow the world's ways, never suspecting something is wrong.
Jesus calls us to choose. He said bluntly we cannot serve both God and money. Yes, we need to make a living and save for the future, but we must seek God's values, not those of the world.
That's why Christians are different. That's why we don't fit in.
The influences on us are strong and many. They tell us to buy this, act a certain way, and think how they tell us. In the face of overwhelming forces, how is a Christian supposed to overcome these voices?
Jesus makes that clear also:
"I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5, ESV)
Christ in us, through the Holy Spirit, empowers us to make right choices, godly choices. We know what God expects of us. He told us in his Commandments. We get further instruction from the Bible. We abide in Christ's words by reading the Bible.
Remember that God is not concerned about your wealth or status. He wants to develop your character. He wants to make you more like Jesus. You cannot take money or awards to heaven with you; you will take your character.
The proof of abiding in Christ is our fruit. Not only does our character mature, but we express it in good deeds that help others. We don't pile up these acts to work our way into heaven but to give glory to God.
Abiding in Christ and allowing him to abide in us sets us apart from the world. We don't fit in. We no longer care about getting credit or impressing others. We care about advancing the kingdom here.
Freedom comes by doing the right thing, and we can know we're doing the right thing when we practice kingdom values. We have to learn those values from the Bible, not from advertising, social media, news programs, or our friends.
Abiding in Christ and having him abide in you will supply you with the courage to carry on when you feel rejected. You don't have to be smug about your kingdom citizenship. On the contrary, you belong there because of what Jesus did for you, not for anything you did yourself.
The cost of following Christ is that you will never fit in here. The reward, however, is that you will fit in perfectly in the kingdom of heaven.