We Don’t Fit

I have voraciously been feeding on Tim Keller’s sermons. Tim is the senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York, and his ability to express the depth of God’s grace, and its ability to form a new community of “peculiar people,” has been for me a potent blessing.

Below I give a small excerpt from one of his sermons titled “The Gospel, The Church, and the World,” which was based on a passage from 1 Peter 2:4-12, and in which one of the key ideas is that believers are called to live as resident aliens. Just prior to this excerpt Keller had been talking about the reputation of the Early Church in Ancient Roman society.


No one had ever seen a group of people that held to all those practices. They were aliens. They weren’t like the Greeks. They weren’t like the Romans. They weren’t like the Jews. They were aliens. Well, you say, “That was then.” Well, okay, now think about this for a second. What if there was a group of people now that were following those same set of biblical values?… Rejecting blood thirsty sports (militarism), empowering women, reveling in the combination of races and classes, radically serving the poor. What kind of group is that?… Sounds liberal. Forbidding abortion, forbidding sex outside of marriage, forbidding same sex practices, insisting that Jesus is the only way of salvation, and what’s that sound like?… It sounds like a horribly conservative group. Guess what, we’re still aliens. We do not fit into Western  relativistic individualism; we don’t fit into traditional hierarchical legalism, we don’t fit. We don’t fit conservative, we don’t fit liberal. We’ve always been aliens.


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4 Responses to “We Don’t Fit”

  1. Roger Green  

    Actually, it’s sounds a bit like certain Catholic group – I’m blocking on the the name – whose name is tied to the fact that Jesus’ garment was seamless and therefore couldn’t be torn.

  2. Anthony Velez  

    Roger – Actually you did sort of name that group. They are called “Seamless Garment” and they promote what’s called a consistent (or whole) life ethic, which is opposed to abortion, war, the death penalty, euthanasia, economic oppression, and which affirms policies that protect the environment. The central core to all this is the belief in the sanctity of life, and so, they are close to what Tim Keller was preaching.

    For me, both of these men represent good examples of trying to let the biblical picture of love, justice, and holiness shape political convictions, instead of Christianizing the political options of the American landscape. Two other examples of pastor/scholars who do this quite well are Greg Boyd and Scot McKnight.

  3. K.L.B.  

    Well, by now you and your readers have likely gathered the style of my response.

    And so it is, true to form. Which, I suppose, is not a bad way to be.

    “We are strangers, we are aliens… we are not of this world.”

    Those partial lyrics were the bridge lyrics to the song “Not Of This World” by the Christian pop/rock group Petra.

    This theme is not alien – pardon the pun – to Scripture. In 1Chronicles 29:15 we read “We are aliens and strangers in your sight, as were all our forefathers. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope.” NIV

    The word translated as “alien” from the Hebrew Original Word: גֵּר
    is Transliterated as “ger,” which Short Definition is “alien.” (I write that to demonstrate the accuracy of translation in context of this verse.)

    From a more broad perspective, however, the Scripture is replete with examples and commands given by the Almighty to Israel on how to treat “the widow, the orphan, the stranger among you.” Leviticus 19:34 & 25:35, Exodus 22:22, Deuteronomy 10:18, 26:12, etc.

    These are give purposely, and are not a new concept suddenly appearing without warning in the writings of the Apostles, either in the Gospels or in the epistles.

    It is merely a continuation of a theme, the theme being “put yourself in the other guy’s shoes, ’cause YOU’RE now the aliens!”

    Indeed… how would we act if we were alien?

    Ever put a tadpole in your mouth?

    Probably not.

    It’s alien to you, and the very thought of it may repulse you. But there are some – among whom I’ve served & lived in the remote parts of Mexico – where that amphibious critter is not only an important source of protein but delicacy. (No, they don’t taste like chicken.)

    My point is this: when we consider others, we are considered mature. When we consider that others have needs like us – to eat, to breathe, to have clothing, shelter and relationship – we acknowledge our own humanity, and that we area ALL created in His image (even if we’re ugly, have bad breath, are cute, sexy, ugly, fat, skinny, dumb, cerebral, cool, dorky, etc.).

    Again, I reiterate: this is not a new idea. It is a continuation of a theme.

  4. K.L.B.  

    Considering I have only 31 seconds to edit, I’ll make a new post.

    Partial lyrics to “Not Of This World” –
    SESAC Work Number: 109029

    Written by Robert M. Hartman,
    IPI/CAE #: 67943538;
    SESAC Affiliate #: 138540;

    Dawn Treader Music,
    IPI/CAE #: 45174981
    Ms. Janet Harris
    c/o EMI Christian Music Group
    PO Box 501 0/101
    Brentwood, TN 370240501
    Phone: 615 371-6800
    Fax: 615 371-6897
    SESAC Publisher # 15700