At the beginning of the year, who would have predicted that we’d be more likely to be frightened by someone not wearing a face mask in a store or a bank than by someone who is wearing one? Who would guess that toilet paper would become such a hot commodity? Who would have guessed that most church buildings would be shut for months?
It feels like we’re comic-book characters suddenly transported to an alternate universe that’s similar but not quite the same. (This comic trope is exemplified by the animated movie “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” which won an Oscar last year.) Whether you normally feel like you’re well-connected to the people around you or you usually feel like an outsider, my guess is that you’ve felt out of place during these last few months.
Clarice A. Schultz, a nurse and the author of several books on loss and change, writes, “Grieving people want to hear the sayings, songs, and prayers of their youth.” Perhaps that’s why song lyrics from the 1980s have been flooding my brain lately: “We are strangers. We are aliens. We are not of this world” (Petra). “My closest friends are aliens and strangers, travelers here, living with danger” (DeGarmo & Key). “My world has changed so promise me You’ll never part” (BeBe & CeCe Winans).
We’re called as Christians to be different from other people in this ever-changing world. This month LIGHT + LIFE focuses on what it means to be “strangers in the world.” Keep reading for the wisdom of Free Methodist leaders such as Bishop Linda Adams, Assistant Superintendent Jon Swanson, Pastors Jill Richardson and Roberta Mosier-Peterson, and Communications Director Brett Heintzman as we look at what it means to be in this world but “not of this world.”
This month’s URFM section features Alyssa Galios, who knows what it’s like to experience unexpected changes and heartbreak in life. God is using her compelling life story to inspire other people that they are “made for brave.” Thank you to the missionary (not named here because of the missionary’s work in especially dangerous areas of the world) who recently introduced me to her.
You may expect to feel like a stranger in the world when you’re around co-workers or neighbors who aren’t Christians, and your Christian beliefs may not be popular with them. After all, Jesus said the world may hate you sometimes just as it hated Him (John 15:18–19).
If you’re like me, you may have found yourself in a situation where you feel like a stranger among other people who profess faith in Christ. Through past involvement in an interdenominational ministry, I’ve been the one person at the table with whom everyone else disagrees on a theological matter.
Now I’m about to become known as “Jeff, the pastor’s husband,” as my wife, Jen, becomes the lead pastor of our church this month. This may come as a shock to longtime friends and extended family members whose churches don’t ordain women. Without changing my beliefs, I may go from being seen as a fellow evangelical Christian to a strange man whose ways are not their ways.
The Free Methodist Church sometimes seems like a bit of a stranger because our views don’t fit neatly with the loudest voices in American Christianity. We have a strong emphasis on sanctification and holy living. We also have a longtime history of advocating for poor people, women, and racial and ethnic justice and equity. These biblically based beliefs should go together, but they often don’t.
This month’s magazine includes coverage of the recent “Talk, Listen & Learn Together” discussion (https://vimeo.com/426966207) with five Free Methodist African American leaders and our Board of Bishops. Please read the article, watch the video, and consider how you can be a Christian who works alongside other aliens and strangers to make this world a more just and equitable place.
Life can be strange and unpredictable as we follow and serve a God who’s known to work in mysterious ways. As the Lord tells Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (55:8–9).
Jeff Finley is this magazine’s executive editor and a member of John Wesley FMC in Indianapolis. He joined LIGHT + LIFE in 2011 after a dozen years of reporting and editing for Sun-Times Media.