I was cruising through Facebook the other day, enjoying the many “I just left my child at college” posts. Then I ran across an ad for a T-shirt that made me grin.
Etsy is selling a T-shirt with the Texas flag emblazoned on the back with the words “Don’t California my Texas.”
I grinned because I grew up in California and understood the sentiment.
Peter wrote his letters to people who had left Jerusalem and the surrounding areas to relocate in Asia Minor, or modern-day Turkey. The people in Asia Minor were probably saying, “Don’t Christian up our pagan culture.”
Peter wrote his letters, which we know as 1 and 2 Peter, so that the Christians would know how to live as missionaries. His lessons are important truth for all of us today.
All Christians, whether we live in California or Texas, are missionaries to our culture.
California to Texas
I love my home state for many reasons.
But Texans only think they have a beach. Galveston has dirty sand, and salt water, and the waves barely lap onto the shore, often carrying those nasty, stinging jellyfish.
Announcement: That is not a beach.
California has the most amazing sunsets over the water. Much of the time, evenings on the beach require a sweatshirt, even in the summer months. The beaches have volleyball nets, bathrooms, and nice restaurants or food trucks. And, the waves will take you out if you aren’t paying attention and allow you to ride them if you are.
That, in my humble opinion, is a day at the beach.
California has Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, Sea World, Hollywood, Silicon Valley, the Golden Gate Bridge, Carmel, San Diego, beaches, mountains, redwoods, lakes, deserts, and temperate weather. (Except for this week!)
And what should Christians be thinking about as all those people arrive?
Texas to California
I was nineteen years old when I moved with my family to Houston, Texas.
Honestly, it felt like I had moved to a different country. I still remember driving the wrong way on a “feeder” road, trying to get on the freeway.
I remember being honked at by a Cadillac convertible with longhorns on the hood. The horn played a few bars of “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”
And I remember leaving for a vacation road trip at 4:30 a.m., and it was still at least eighty-five degrees outside.
I told my friends back in California that my parents had moved me to hell, literally.
Interestingly, I never moved back to California. I never wanted to.
(Except for the times I was visiting Galveston “Beach.”)
If I did move back . . .
I’ve been back to California several times, and I always enjoy it. But, I think I would feel differently if I were actually moving there.
I think I would feel like an outsider in their culture now.
I was a Christian when I lived there, but what I didn’t realize at the age of nineteen is that I was already a lot different than much of the culture. Now, fast-forward forty-five years.
I realize things have changed even more. I honestly think that, if I lived in California, I would feel like those early Christians Peter wrote his letters to in Asia Minor.
Are we cultural missionaries?
Regardless of where you live, with the current cultural trends, Christians are going to begin to feel more and more like missionaries in the American culture.
For those who live in Texas, several changes are becoming more apparent.
- For the first time in a long time, Texas is actually considered a political swing state.
- Our homes are becoming more valuable and more sellable.
- Our schools’ curricula are changing.
- Traditional churches are declining or are on a plateau.
- There are a lot more “non-church” activities scheduled on a Sunday morning.
What would St. Peter want us to know?
Peter wrote to churches filled with Christian exiles from Jerusalem, but those churches were quickly filling with converts from the region. Those early Christians had moved to a region known for the pagan worship of multiple gods.
But those “pagans” were also moms, dads, grandparents, friends, co-workers, and neighbors who were curious about the Christian families moving in. That curiosity often led to a shared faith in Christ. That has always been the best, most natural evangelism.
Peter had good advice for those first-century Christians. He told them to live “holy” lives, set apart from their culture. In other words, they were not to be influenced by the culture but were to live as influencers to the culture.
Peter wrote, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11–12).
Peter said to those early Christians, and to us today, that we are called to be missionaries to our culture. We are sojourners, just passing through. We are exiles because we aren’t “at home” in the world. Home is heaven. But, while we are here, wherever we live, we are to set a godly example to those around us.
Peter reminds us that we really aren’t at home in Texas or California. Both cultures have strengths and weaknesses, but there is only one culture we are to strive for. When people look at our lives, they should see good deeds. When they get to know us, they should understand our “goodness” is because of God.
Jesus is going to come back for us. It will either be when he finally returns at the second coming or when he comes at the end of our earthly lives to take us to heaven.
When people attend our memorial service, what are the good deeds they will be speaking about?
The deeds that made them believe and understand that we belonged to God?
The day of visitation
We don’t get to know when Jesus will return.
My “temperate” California is going to find itself in a heatwave next week, with temps over 100 degrees. Californians are going to suffer. They have three major fires in the state, rolling power outages, and an economic crisis to deal with.
I love my home state of California. I wish I could tell them that the Bible teaches God’s early judgment is almost always indicated by a lack of his protective blessings. Is California experiencing that judgment today? Will Texas be there eventually, if not now?
As a Bible teacher, I want to remind people we need to be watchful and aware of how God has worked in the past. That is our best indicator of how the Lord will work in the world today. God is unchanging.
What are the things like weather, natural disasters, trends, viruses, and miraculous events that only God can ordain and allow? What does God want us to notice? Do Christians feel more at home on this planet than we should?
God wants to bless our lives. Are we aware of an abundance of blessings or find ourselves wanting them?
Wherever you are a missionary today, live like the “day of visitation” is tomorrow.
That is what St. Peter would want people in California, people in Texas, and people throughout the world to understand.
No matter where Christians live today, we aren’t home yet.
But, we are one day closer to perfection right now!
I wonder what the beaches in heaven will look like?
(Not Galveston, that’s for sure!)