I am what is considered a “Third Culture Kid.” As a missionary kid, I grew up in a country that was not mine and then came back to a country that was not mine. I questioned, where do I fit? How do I go home? Where is home? It is said that third culture kids are most at home in airports. Maybe that is why I have flown over three million miles in my lifetime. The other thing about third culture kids is that they tend to look at their own culture from the outside since they grew up on the outside. There is a sense in which they never feel like they fit in. They exist between two cultures. So, if you think I'm strange, you have a good reason!
You may not have thought about it, but you are a third culture person. In fact, you have two passports. The first passport is from the country in which you were born. The culture in which you live. The second passport is from heaven, the country you now owe your highest allegiance to, and where you are going. This means that you live in a dynamic tension between your birth culture and the family of God into which you have been adopted.
This is why 1st and 2nd Peter call us aliens and strangers in this world. For instance, in 1 Peter 2:11-12, Peter writes, "Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us."
Peter is reminding us that many of the values and practices of the culture around us are different from the values and practices of our Kingdom, Jesus' culture. That is why I say that we live in a dynamic tension between our home culture and our newly adopted culture in Jesus.
In adopting us, we are now citizens of God's Kingdom while still living in our home culture. Here is how Peter describes it in 1 Peter 2:9-10. "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."
So what are the implications of having two passports as Christians? The first is that we need to recognize that the values and practices of our home culture and our kingdom culture are not identical. They are vastly different. This is why those who genuinely seek to follow God stand out. They are different.
They are humble when others are proud
They forgive when others hold grudges
They treat their enemies well when others treat them as enemies
They are people of grace where others make you earn their love
They stand up for the helpless where others take advantage of them
They are people of truth, whereas others use truth selectively
They care about justice, where others care mainly about themselves
Here is the point. When the values of our home culture are different from the values of our kingdom culture, we must always default to the kingdom culture. That is what it means to follow Jesus. We live in a dynamic tension between two kingdoms but must always default to God's Kingdom.
A second implication is that we will not always fit in. When I came from Hong Kong to finish high school as a teenager, I didn't fit in. I had come from a school with 21 different nationalities represented. Now, everyone was from the east side of St. Paul. I had traveled the world and lived in a world-class city. My classmates' definition of travel was going to Wisconsin deer hunting. I was used to candid dialogue and now found myself kicked out of my social studies class for challenging the teacher.
I didn't always fit in. And, neither do believers who live in a pagan society. Again Peter, in 1 Peter 4 says, "For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do - living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you." We won't always fit in, but that is OK. As Peter said, "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us."
The life of Jesus was a life lived against the grain. Against the cultural trends that kept people in bondage. It was a life of freedom, which our Kingdom passport gives us. We are free to live like Jesus and no longer bound to our old way of life. We will be different as we live out our Kingdom values that are counter to many of the values of our world.
Embrace your third culture status as people who have two passports and belong to two kingdoms. Just be sure that when you must choose between the two's value systems, you select the Kingdom values even if it makes you stand out. You are, after all, a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and God's special possession.