Many of you who are older like me (or who have seen old sit-com re-runs) may remember the trailer video for the late 60s program “Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.” Sha-zam! You will recall how Gomer was trying to march in step with the rest of the Marines, but he just couldn’t pull it off properly, especially with Sergeant Vince Carter screaming into his ear.
I look around at the rest of the world and the broader culture and often feel like a Gomer Pyle in terms of understanding it or ever being in step with it … as if that is even any sort of worthy goal.
We see so much injustice on so many fronts, particularly of people who prosper in spite of their values systems, while others who are more honorable by moral and ethical standards are wrongly stepped upon and marginalized.
And as we have answered the question of the past week with a “yes” — that there is final justice and judgment — we live now as foreigners in a strange land. This is not our country; we are not at home here, not really.
If you have travelled to other countries, you know what I mean by how there are so many little things about the culture that are just very, very different.
The French (and other Europeans) do this greeting thing where you kiss right and then kiss left (at least I think it is right/left … or is it left/right?). When travelling there a couple years ago while our son Jesse was studying in Antibes, France, we went to a luncheon gathering of his young adult church friends. And I’ll say it was very awkward to do all this kissie thing with French college girls. I was so afraid I was going to get it wrong and end up with a meet-me-in-the-middle head butt!
So our Christian lives come down to having a sort of skill in living in a place that is decidedly foreign, a place that never quite feels like home, a place where you realize you are always just a bit out of step with the rest of the world, a world characterized by unresolved issues of justice / injustice. Living in such a place looks like this, in the words of Peter in 2 Peter chapter 3 …
3:3 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming… make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation
As we have said over the past week, the Lord will indeed return and a time of accounting and justice will ensue. But until then, what kind of people should we be? Well, spotless, blameless and at peace with God … in other words, confidently out of step with the rest of the crazy world.
And remember also that the patience of the Lord in not returning sooner, and thereby even allowing injustices to grow and expand, does have the positive benefit of the salvation of many and the growth of His Kingdom.
So it is OK to be out of step; there is a good reason for it. We make it work and endure it patiently, because we know we are going ultimately home to our real country and kingdom.