By Chuck Griffin
Remember the Coneheads skits on Saturday Night Live? Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtin and Laraine Newman played aliens from the planet Remulak living among us.
The funny thing about the skits was not how different the aliens appeared—great comedians don’t rely on a costume to win a laugh.
I laughed the hardest when Beldar, Prymaat and their daughter, Connie, managed to blend in with humans despite their enormous, pointy heads and mechanical speech. Usually, the explanation “We’re from Remulak, a small town in France,” was enough to carry them through an awkward moment with the neighbors.
Good comedy often rides on currents of social criticism. The Coneheads skits were funnier because we’re all conscious of how the world wants us to blend in, making it easy for us to conform. The Bible reminds Christians, however, that we are called to live as aliens in a strange world, knowing our citizenship lies elsewhere.
In Philippians 3:17-4:1, we hear Paul tell the fledgling church at Philippi that people of the world set their minds on “earthly things,” failing to understand the bigger picture of what God is doing in the world through Jesus Christ.
“Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame,” Paul wrote. (We don’t have a lot of details about what was going on in Philippi, although elsewhere in his letter Paul does refer to the church as being in the midst of a “crooked and perverse generation.”)
Not understanding the church, the nonbelievers even persecuted the Christians, becoming what Paul called “enemies of the cross.”
Clearly, the Philippian Christians were wavering, wanting to blend in by participating in the short-sighted living going on around them. To stiffen their resolve, Paul reminded them of their eternal citizenship in heaven and the promise that their current unglamorous position will be transformed into something glorious.
And yes, as they so often are, Paul’s words are very applicable today. Even where there is no persecution, secular society seems happiest with Christians who choose to be quiet and conform.
As long as we don’t interfere with the “consume mass quantities,” be-happy-in-the-moment forces that shape our lives, we usually are left alone, at least in the United States. We’re even allowed to make a lot of public noise about Easter, as long as we dress the story in bunnies and bonnets.
We cannot settle for blending in, however. The message of salvation through Jesus Christ is too powerful, and the eternal joy brought by the promise of resurrection is too great, even if it does make the non-Christian world uncomfortable.
We are aliens in a strange land, citizens under a coming savior king who will one day rule in both heaven and here on a restored Earth. And the news is too good to keep to ourselves.
During this season of preparation for Easter, don’t conform. Find new ways to stand out as you tell people where their true citizenship lies, in the kingdom of God.
Lord, help us to benefit your kingdom by being in the world, but not of it. Amen.