the weirdness of Christian experience

I was smacked between the eyeballs by the weirdness of Christian experience the other day. It happened while reading these verses from 1 Peter with some students:

“You love [Jesus], though you have not seen Him. And though not seeing Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1.8-9)

It’s easy to become immunised against the sheer oddness of claiming to love and centre your life upon a person you’ve never seen or met in the flesh.

Or to catch yourself trying to suppress this troubling intrusive mid-prayer thought: “OK. So I’m praying — which I believe is communicating with the personal Creator and Ruler of the universe… But it feels like I’m talking to the wall. In my head.”

But Peter won’t suppress it. He won’t let us develop an immunity to the weirdness of Christian experience.

Instead, he wants to make sure we’re scratching the rash rather than ignoring it. Because the rash reminds us that something isn’t right.

And what isn’t right, Peter tells his readers, is that Christians are displaced people.

We’re spiritual refugees. Doing our best to live in a foreign land. To adapt to a new context without losing touch with our real home.

We’re pilgrims. Like the people of Israel on their long desert journey towards the land God promised they would inherit. Trudging onward. Shielded by God’s presence with us — not as a pillar of smoke by day and fire by night, but more directly (if less tangibly) by his Spirit.

Ultimately, Peter tells us, Christians aren’t weird because we’ve chosen to be out of step with our culture and its values. As though our morality was like an outfit we might pick to express ourselves — or to fit in (or stand out).

And we’re not weird because our culture has chosen to reject or oppose us. (Rejection and opposition is a symptom of our weirdness not its cause — let the culture warriors understand!)

No. We’re burdened with weirdness because God has chosen us. He’s caught us up in the eternal dance of his triune life as Father, Son, and Spirit. As Peter puts it, “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” we’ve been “set apart by the Spirit for obedience and sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1.2).

And that’s pretty darn weird…

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