I love travelling and have often thought I would like to live in another country - Japan for example. My wife and I love its natural beauty as well as the courtesy and respect afforded us wherever we go. But I have also discovered that living in a very different culture can prove a daunting experience. That became obvious as soon as we tried to hug our Japanese daughter in law’s family.
The apostle Peter would have understood this. Living in Rome must have posed real challenges for a man who had grown up in provincial Galilee. And his experiences could well have prompted him to pen these at the beginning of his first letter in 1 Peter - "I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.”
Peter wanted them to understand that, even though they had been born and brought up in Pontus or Bythinia homesickness should come as no surprise. They were first and foremost citizens of heaven rather than citizens of Rome. And he knew that homesickness can prove the least of our worries; human behaviour can vary to the extent where it can produce “a clash of civilisations”.
The first Christians soon discovered this. They realised that their first allegiance was to their heavenly king and not any cultural norm or imperial expectations. They quickly came to see that apostles such as Peter and Paul weren’t simply offering people a new ‘religious experience’ they were seeking to establish revolutionary “cells” loyal to a new king (NT Wright).
And this inevitably caused problems with the result that they lived very insecure lives. They were open to slander, defamation of character, boycott, mob-violence and even death. They were disliked and even hated by a world that did not like either what they stood for, or lived for. Put simply they were seen as social misfits.
And as their numbers grew, the general populace started to regard them as anti-social and a menace to society and violence often erupted like lava from a smoldering volcano.
It’s normal to feel out of place if you’re a Christian because you have been reborn and given new desires and we can expect to feel more and more out of step as our culture moves away from its Christian roots.
Christians have a different mindset and because of that we can expect to lose friends, be disliked and even fall foul of the law as Susanne Wilkinson discovered when she was fined £3,600 for refusing to allow a gay couple to share a bed in her Berkshire B&B.
Their reaction to a nasty tweet from Nick Griffin of the BNP, in which they expressed sympathy with the homosexual couple in question, Michael Black and John Morgan, shows how they have experienced this.
“We know how it feels to have your address publicised and to receive constant threats, unpleasant statements and misunderstanding. Our Christian faith centres on the amazing and undeserved love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ for all mankind. Although Michael and John have chosen to take us to court we bear them no malice. On the contrary we pray for them and for their protection," they said.
Whether we like it or not, it’s very likely that we are going to face more and more of this pressure in the days to come. But we can be sure of one thing: pressures such as these have a habit of exposing the counterfeit as well as revealing the genuine article. And we can rest content that Jesus will have the last word not any High Court Judge
Christians can expect to face more pressure
As B&B owner Susanne Wilkinson has experienced, Christian beliefs are not going to be accepted by everyone
Published 23 October 2012 | Rob James