Born in the late 1950s and growing up in the ’60s and ’70s, I cannot remember life without television. I feel about television the way my parents felt about radio – I can think back on many family memories of enjoying a TV program together.
In 1963, CBS broke new ground in the typical television world of westerns and variety shows by airing a weekly TV sitcom about an alien. Actor Ray Walston played a very human-looking alien from Mars (with retractable antennas) who had come to earth to study human culture. Taken in by a young newspaper reporter (played by Bill Bixby), the Martian was passed off to others as Bixby’s “Uncle Martin.”
My Favorite Martian spawned other TV programs – Saturday Night Live offered us The Cone Heads (1977-1982), comedian Robin Williams launched his career in Mork and Mindy (1978-1982), and Third Rock from the Sun aired from 1996-2001. Each of these television comedies challenged us to look at our American culture and its values through the eyes of other-worldly visitors.
Back in the 1st Century AD, the Apostle Peter challenged Christians to look at, and to live in the world as aliens, as visitors from God’s heavenly kingdom.
"Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens... who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ..." (1 Peter 1:1-2)
Peter called Christians “aliens” because they lived in a culture that did not share their values of following Jesus rather than popular opinion, because they were called to live by grace, forgiveness, and peace rather than force and domination, and because they lived with hope and joy during difficult times. And these other-worldly values are God’s gifts to us present day Christians also, as Peter says,
"God... according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you." (1 Peter 1:3-4)
As “aliens” from God’s eternal kingdom who are born again to a living hope, Christians are in a unique position to show the world something truly other-worldly. We are free from living in our world as if it contained all there is. We are free to value God’s gifts of grace and peace over temporary material things. And, we are free to have peace in our present trials because God’s best is yet to come.
This “alien” way of living is based, as Peter says, solely on God’s great mercy given to us in Christ. Because of this mercy, we are free to love others because God has first loved us. We are free to follow Christ because he has forgiven us of our rebellion. We are free to live by grace and peace because he has given it to us freely and fully. So, put your antennas up. Listen to God’s love song for you in Christ, listen to those around you, and then act in Christ’s name. Act because of His mercy and love; be an alien! To God be the glory.