Christians today must remember their identity and calling. We are not competing, as one fellow said, for a “seat at the cool table.” Rather, our lot is in the fens and marshlands outside the city limits (Heb. 11:38). We are “strangers and exiles,” and thus we are those called by our Lord to join Him outside the camp to “bear the reproach he endured” (Heb. 13:13). This is not to say, of course, that we should abandon the world to its idolatrous and suicidal whims, but it is to say that we should content ourselves with nothing less than total nonconformity to it (Rom. 12:1–2).
He said to them, ‘What kind of man was he who came to meet you and told you these things?’ They answered him, ‘He wore a garment of hair, with a belt of leather about his waist.’ And he said, ‘It is Elijah the Tishbite.’ (2 Kings 1:7–8)
The power and potency of the saints has always consisted in their ability to remain distinct from the world. Just as the usefulness of leaven consists in the fact that it is not the dough, so the usefulness of the saints is found in the fact that they are not the world. They are an alien substance, a foreign ingredient; a people altogether different in character, message, and conviction — and yet, by virtue of their difference, the means God uses to exert a preserving and correcting influence on idolatrous societies.
The examples of this are many. Whether we think of Moses in the court of Pharaoh (Heb. 11:26), or Daniel with Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 1:8); whether Elijah and John the Baptist (2 Kgs. 1:8; Matt. 3:4), or Paul before Agrippa (Acts 25:23); whether we turn our eyes to history and think of Polycarp and Ignatius, Latimer and Ridley, Alfred and Asser, Bunyan and Ryle, the case is always the same.