Joshua 7:3–15, 1 Thessalonians 4:1–12
The pivotal character in the book Dune at one point talks about having a “stamp of strangeness” put upon him. This stamp was definitely a different context, yet “stamp of strangeness” was and is exactly what God does to us when he calls us and we accept him.
When the Israelites are finally about to enter the Promised Land, God calls on the Israelites to consecrate themselves. In other words, they were to emotionally, spiritually, and physically separate themselves for the work (taking, living, and thriving) in the Promised Land. This means that Egypt was a closed door. This means that they were to be separate even from their “relatives” (i.e., the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother). They were to be strange.
Paul later tells the Thessalonians to be strange, too. In this passage, there is a cultural battle they are facing. In their larger culture, it wasn’t uncommon that a man had a wife (often a political or social marriage), a lover (intellectual and/or sexual), a concubine (generally an indentured servant or slave), and a prostitute. A man would be considered normal to have at least 3 of these, and potentially more (e.g., the number of concubines and prostitutes could vary). In some areas, this was encouraged. Heterosexual monogamy was strange. It doesn’t appear that there were specific issues that Paul was addressing, but an attitude and expectation. Just like the Israelites, Christians were to be strange.
Due to human frailty, we often don’t want to be strange. We want to be normal. We want to fit it. While it is important to have non-Christian friends and acquaintances, it is due to the expectation of being strange that means we (as Christians) must have Christians in our most intimate (non-sexual) relationships where we are held accountable and hold others accountable.
When we read Paul’s words today, they are strange yet again. The world is heading toward (and arguably is) a society of relationships that are not in line with God’s creation (especially sexually). One can point to a huge number of issues (and it’s not one or two) that are not only opposed to created intent but are also being found to inhibit or damage real relationships with people. Paul addresses that, too, when he talks about behaviors damaging others in the faith, and they don’t have to be participants to be damaged.
All believers are called to be progressively sanctified. In other words, part of our Christian journey to be continually shaped by the Holy Spirit into the image of Christ in partnership with fellow maturing believers. The “stamp of strangeness” grows stronger, and becomes a cross to bear in the world of the transforming nature of God.
1) What are you actively doing to place yourself in an authentic accountable relationship? If nothing, what is holding you back?
2) The world speaks and trumpets individuality. However, the world only celebrates “safe” individuality. What makes “Christian” individuality dangerous? Is there really such a thing is a Christian individual apart from the body of Christ?
3) Thinking to the separation aspect, what is a place in your life that you need more separation from the world?