Having spent a couple of days in London on business the other week I was happy to be back in the very rural county where I have lived for nearly thirty-eight years. I guess we do get crowds in Hereford when the shops are open, especially on Saturday, but they are nothing like the seething mass of humanity one comes across in a capital city. People are everywhere. Even walking back to my hotel just before midnight the streets were still busy with people and vehicles. And don’t get me going about London Underground! How do people tolerate being squeezed into those steel tubes twice a day every day of their working lives? And why don’t they smile, or talk to one another?
Quite simply London is another world to me. It is beyond my understanding and way out of my comfort zone. I feel like an alien from the moment I step off the train, until the moment my train home pulls out of Paddington Station.
The thing is I don’t think that I look like an alien when I am in London. I know anything goes in the city, but I dress in a business suit, and I am confident in finding my way around. I know that Londoners don’t talk to each other on the Underground, and I know that they rush everywhere, and somehow I manage to fit in and look like them. While it is strange fitting in, it isn’t a problem, and folk wouldn’t know by looking at me that I come from a land of endless green many miles from their city streets. It is probably true to say that I am also an alien in that land of green, so far from the ocean where I spent much of my childhood, and where I earned my living back in the day.
The trouble with aliens is that they are often hard to spot. They blend in with society and walk among us undetected. Or so we are told! The reality for humans is that most of us show out as being from somewhere else the moment we open our mouths. Our words, our accents in particular, give us away. Now I can pick up accents quite quickly, but it takes a while to become proficient and sound like a local. Some people can live in a place most of their lives and never be accepted as locals. They remain different for whatever reason.
The Bible tells expects followers of Jesus to be different for a reason. In 1 Peter 2:11 (NASB) we told are to be like aliens and strangers (some translations use other words including foreigners, exiles, pilgrims, and temporary residents). Is that really how we, and the churches we belong to, are perceived? Because if we are not different, and if we don’t stand out in a world that quite frankly is on the road to hell, then perhaps we deserve the same fate as the lost around us who haven’t yet met with Jesus? Surely our lives, and the reputation of our churches should be the first introduction to Jesus for the lost that He told us to reach?
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16 NIV)