Whatever you do, don’t stop reading after this quote. “America doesn’t want to hear the Gospel anymore. No one is listening. As Christians, it’s our duty to cut our losses here and spread God’s Word in other countries.” A friend of mine once told me this. He was proposing complete Christian alienation from America: abandon America like Lot and his family left Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19). Tell me, is there truly no one left who is open to hearing the Word of God? This friend proposed alienation. I propose an engaged alienation.
I love a good oxymoron. “Engaged Alienation”: it’s a phrase that causes me to grit my teeth, first because I’m a fascinated linguist, and second because I’m an extrovert who cringes at words like alienation. So why do I choose that phrase, then? Let’s take a look at how Jesus guided His disciples in sharing the Gospel by means of engaged alienation.
In Matthew 10, Jesus sends out His 12 disciples in pairs. He instructs them to take literally nothing but the clothes on their backs. Anyone in the towns that they went to would then see their need and hopefully take them in. Because the disciples needed the people to open their doors for them, it therefore opened the door for conversation. The disciples were engaged. Jesus instructed them to “Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, heal those who suffer from dreaded skin diseases, and drive out demons” (verse 8).
The disciples were also alienated, and Jesus warned them that they would be! “Watch out, for there will be those who will arrest you and take you to court, and they will whip you in the synagogues. For my sake you will be brought to trial before rulers and kings, to tell the Good News to them and to the Gentiles” (verses 17-18). He even says, “Everyone will hate you because of me” (verse 22). This isn’t anything new to the disciples. Their people had been dealing with alienation for centuries. All of Exodus shows how the Hebrews were separate from the Egyptians; enslaved, even.
At this point, you might be thinking, “Anna, following Christ doesn’t sound so fun. People were enslaved and killed in the name of God!” I’ll be honest: Christianity is not glamorous, and it never has been. But since the beginning of time, God has shown His mercy in adversity and alienation. To the Hebrews in Egypt, their enslavement spared them from starvation due to famine in their land. To the disciples, He says that they will be brought to kings and rulers and then they would get the chance to share His love with them!
So what does engaged alienation look like today? It doesn’t look like a religion who pickets or riots when we don’t agree with someone else’s values. Christianity is not simply about morals or values after all. It’s about a God who loved us so much that He sent His son to the cross. Engaged Alienation therefore looks like being with the sick, guiding the blind, helping the poor. It looks like a redeemed sinner, washed in the forgiving blood of Christ looks like. We are not called to alienate America, stampeding away with a set of cherished values, but rather stand out as beloved children of God. Be engaged in your community, but stand out in our American culture: be engaged aliens.