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  • Writer's pictureRichard Parrish

Lost in Translation

I first recognized I didn’t fit in when I was a boy.

For a brief time, we lived in Mississippi. Aside from learning to adjust to a southern drawl, I realized that some words could sound alike but have very different meanings.

You can imagine my confusion when my friend, while noticing smoke in the distance, said: “That there ‘far,’ is far away.” It took me a while to recognize that “fire” can also sound like “far.”

My new friends did not recognize my “accent.” Common words I used were not always understood by them, either.

However, I was in Mississippi, and they were a long way from Oregon. I was the stranger.

After a short time in the deep South, my family moved back to Oregon. One day, Mom asked me to go to the store to get a few items. Paying for the groceries, I asked the clerk: “Do you have a poke?”

She stared at me, confused. “What,” she asked. “A poke,” I replied. Thoroughly bewildered, she said: “Son, I have no idea what you are asking.”

Pointing at a paper sack behind the counter, I explained: “I need a poke to carry the groceries home.” My short time in Mississippi had taught me that a “sack” is also known as a “poke.”

It became pretty obvious: What’s understandable and acceptable in Mississippi is not always valid for Oregonians. It’s also true:

It’s more than accents and colloquialisms that make it challenging for followers of Christ to “fit in.”

  • How are we to live when societal preferences are frequently in conflict with Christ’s teachings?

  • How are we to unite when others are unwilling to tolerate different beliefs?

  • To what degree should we engage in political debates — or should we?

  • How are we to love when hated or respond when treated poorly?

  • How can we responsibly reflect Christ in an anti-Christ environment?

In the first century, people were asking the same type of questions. The Apostle Peter addresses their questions, offering specific ways in which our behavior is to be different than the world.

First, he reminds us that our citizenship in this world is a visa, not a permanent residency.

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” - 1 Peter 2:11 (ESV)

It’s easy to forget why I feel that I don’t “fit in.” It’s because I’m a sojourner and an exile (a stranger and alien) that is temporarily living in a foreign land.

Paul also reinforces this reality to the Philippians:

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it, we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…” - Philippians 3:20 (ESV)

Peter reminds us that followers of Christ are to abstain from sinful desires:

“…abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”

To abstain means “to hold oneself constantly back from.” The enticement of sin creates an internal war that wages against our spiritual lives (see James 4:1).

But abstaining from sinful actions is not only to relieve us-- from our internal struggle. Peter understands that righteous behavior is a testimony before unbelievers.

“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 2:12 (ESV)

How we live as strangers and aliens in this world matters. Although we may increasingly recognize that we are out-of-step with the world, our behavior is influential.

Do you feel as if you don’t “fit in?” Do you feel as if you are out-of-step with the world around you?

Perhaps that’s an indication of your real citizenship and an encouragement to keep your conduct pleasing to God so others will see God’s glory.


I invite you to take A Simple Pause with God. My friend and colleague in ministry, LuAnn Roberson, has developed an excellent app to supplement the daily rhythm of Bible Reading and devotional time.

A Simple Pause creates space for spiritual deepening through short guided periods of reflection. This no-cost app is available in the iTunes app store as well as Google Play.

For more information about A Simple Pause or LuAnn Roberson, visit

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