An Alien in a Human Body
Reading time: 10 minutes
There are people living on earth today who were born and raised here and live normal lives like everyone else, but in reality are aliens. On the outside they look like everyone else but they’re not what they seem. They belong to a different world, not this planet. And the exciting part of this true story is that you are one of them.
Let Jesus explain. “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:19, NIV). We don’t belong to this planet or its culture, because God chose us from among its inhabitants to be a citizen of his world. Since we don’t belong to this world, its citizens won’t love us as their own but instead will hate us.
Keep in mind that all kinds of people flocked to Jesus and he even became known as a “friend of sinners” (Luke 7:34). Yet he taught that the world hated him and would hate anyone who loved him. Were people attracted to him because he caroused at their parties or indulged in what they enjoyed? No, people were drawn to him because he was the personification of love and excellent character, because he met their needs and spoke the truth. Once people experienced him firsthand, however, many of them reacted negatively to him and rejected him, some even opposed him. His differences attracted them at first, then they rejected him because of his differences.
We can expect the same.
It’s human nature to be prejudiced against those who are different. Self-centeredness makes people believe they are acceptable as they are and that others should be like them. It causes them to dislike anyone who makes them look bad or feel bad about themselves. In addition, Satan motivates his people to hate and strongly oppose people who live for his enemy, God.
Because Jesus set us free from sin which dominates the world system, we have the privilege of adhering to God’s higher standards and living an exemplary life. In reality, it’s our responsibility. Isn’t it obvious people controlled by their sinful natures would hate us for that?
Non-Christians might relate to us and even enjoy being with us at first, but we shouldn’t be surprised if they’re less interested in us as they get to know us better. We certainly shouldn’t be obnoxious or self-righteous around non-Christians, but on the other hand, if we fit in well with their crowd, we need to check our attitudes and lifestyle. If we submit to God and humbly live to please him, the world will hate us.
In John’s Gospel, we read one of Jesus’ prayers to the Father that reinforces the idea of alienation from the world. “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it” (John 17:14-16).
Anyone who chooses to believe Jesus is God’s Son knows he came to earth from somewhere else. He did not originate on this planet and therefore is not of the world. The phrase, “of the world,” refers to someone who belongs to the world, relates to it, identifies with it, and longs for what it provides. We originally were of the world, but once we accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord, he changed our citizenship and we’re no longer citizens of this world. We still live in the world, but we’re no longer its citizens. We do not belong here; we’re foreigners, aliens to this culture.
What is the culture of this world? It is a lifestyle based on sinful human nature, which is intensely self-centered. The emphasis of human existence is on what a person wants, what they think, how they can be in control. The ultimate satisfaction in human culture is to be in control and accountable to no one.
People approve of those who behave like them and they encourage others to practice what they do. The book of Romans says, “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them” (Rom. 1:32).
Peer pressure can be subtle at times, but its purpose is always to encourage others to conform. We see people do this, and maybe have even done it ourselves. People encourage others to wear the same clothes they do, calling it stylish or fashionable. They pressure them to use the same language, to smoke, drink, lie, steal, and so on. They applaud people who conform, who do what they do or wish they could do.
It’s common for people not only to encourage others to behave certain ways, but even abuse those who will not. Peter describes such an attitude: “They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you” (1 Pet. 4:4). People will pressure others who do not adhere to their standards. When we choose not to indulge in the same behavior someone else does, we can expect them to ridicule us or even become abusive. People of this world hate those who have different attitudes, think differently or act differently. They will use extreme pressure to make us conform.
Paul wrote, however, that we have “died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world,” so we shouldn’t follow the rules and traditions of the world as though we “still belonged to the world” (Col. 2:20). He was referring to “hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ” (v. 8). This includes human commands and teachings that require certain types of behavior. For example, we certainly should not follow human tradition and standards so we can be popular or live “the good life.” We don’t belong to this world, because “our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20).
Peter echoed this theme in his letters. “Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear” (1 Pet. 1:17). We still live here, but should be foreigners to this world’s culture. But why does he say we should live here in reverent fear? I think he means we should be afraid of becoming or remaining like this culture, since God will impartially judge everyone’s work. God will judge those who belong to this culture, and those who have adopted this culture – believers who live like the world’s citizens.
Peter continued the theme. “Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Pet. 2:11–12). As we saw earlier, people of this world will hate us and pressure us to conform to their standards. But Peter wrote we should live such good lives and do such good deeds, they’ll glorify God when he returns though they hate us now.
As aliens on this planet, doing what citizens of this planet do will be spiritually harmful or even fatal to us. The inhabitants of this planet live by indulging their sinful desires. Doing so doesn’t affect their condition because they belong to this world and will perish with it; they are already sinful. As aliens to this planet, however, we have a different nature and cannot indulge our sinful desires without harming ourselves.
Notice that Peter said to abstain from sinful desires, not just sinful acts. If we believe we’re okay as long as we don’t “do anything wrong,” we are in big trouble. The emphasis of the Old Testament was on behavior: it is okay to do this, but thou shalt not do that. Jesus clearly raised the standard and emphasized attitudes instead of actions. We understand now that what we think determines our actions, that we can perform all the right actions but still have a poor attitude. Christianity is a relationship with God, not a legalistic set of rules.
How can we abstain from sinful desires? We first must realize it’s not a sin to be tempted or have a sinful thought. Jesus was tempted, but didn’t sin. We can’t prevent thoughts from entering our minds, because everything around us triggers thoughts, but we can prevent those thoughts from staying in our minds. The key is repentance; changing the way we think and what we think about to conform to God’s thoughts.
Peter says our sinful desires war against our soul, the source of our psychological activity. Sinful desires do not war against the souls of the citizens of the world, because their souls are sinful and they willingly indulge the desires. But sinful desires do war against our redeemed nature. Some Christians are even voluntary POW’s in this war, having surrendered to the enemy and to their sinful desires. We call them carnal Christians, believers who prefer the world’s culture to that of their homeland.
A certain phrase appears several times in the book of Revelation to define those who live on the earth: “the inhabitants of the earth.” We find the souls of martyrs in heaven asking how long it will be before the Lord will judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge their blood (Rev. 6:10). In one of the major prophetic sequences, the seven trumpets, there is a dire warning to the inhabitants of the earth because of the events that are about to occur (Rev. 8:13). All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast of Revelation 13 and be deceived (Rev. 13:8, 12, 14). The “inhabitants of the earth” clearly does not include true Christians. As believers in Jesus, we aren’t inhabitants of this earth and it isn’t our home.
My point is that we do not belong to the world system anymore. It is now unacceptable for us to have the world’s values, standards, priorities and goals. It is unacceptable for us to continue acting like earth’s inhabitants and have the same attitudes. If non-Christians are drawn to us, it should be because we’re like Jesus, the personification of love and excellent character, and because we meet their needs and speak the truth.
We have been redeemed from the world system and we no longer belong here. We are now aliens in human bodies.
- “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own” (John 15:19). If unbelievers are comfortable around you because you think and act like they do, not because they are drawn by your godly nature, then you still live as if you “belonged to the world.”
- Which of your attitudes and practices belong to the world system?
- What specific steps can you take to replace them with attitudes and behavior of God’s kingdom?
- “That is why the world hates you” (John 15:19).
- Are there indications that unbelievers oppose you or reject you due to your exemplary lifestyle? Don’t include their response to any “holier than thou” attitude you have demonstrated.
- “They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you” (1 Pet. 4:4).
- Identify specific instances of people abusing you verbally or otherwise because you chose not to engage in their ungodly behavior.
- How did you feel when they treated you that way and how should you have felt?
- In what ways have you tried to conform your behavior as much as possible to make yourself acceptable without actually “doing anything wrong” as you see it?
As Christians, we’re citizens of heaven and aliens to the world’s system. It’s our privilege and responsibility to adhere to a higher standard and live an exemplary life, even if the world hates us for it.