Are you a Christian? Do you feel as if you don’t fit in anywhere in this world? Believe me, you are not alone. Most people today find everything about Christianity offensive—particularly our belief that there is only one God and that the only way to know Him is by repentance of sin and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. In the spirit of tolerance, they call on Christians to compromise and change such “divisive” beliefs. If the Christians refuse, they are cancelled from culture, becoming nonpersons and objects of hatred.

Our culture wants us to understand that there is no place in their world for Christians, or at least the ones who take God and His Word seriously. It would be so easy to give in and change our ideals so that we don’t offend others. But what if we offend the God we serve while doing so? Are we supposed to please God or our culture? Should we try to do both?

Perhaps we should take a lesson from Abraham.

Even if you have never read the Bible or the Qur’an, you have probably heard of Abraham. His sons fathered the Arab and Jewish nations. The three great monotheistic faiths—Christianity, Islam, and Judaism—claim him as their founder. Prominent historical figures like Moses, Solomon, and Jesus were his descendants. It could be argued that no other man in history besides Jesus has left such a lasting mark on our world.

Abraham did not set out to be famous, however. He started out as an ordinary middle-aged man with no great aspirations. Born in ancient Iraq, his father moved the family north to Turkey, where they lived for many years. Abraham was, by all accounts, a wealthy landowner and devoted husband. He seemed content with his life.

Then God stepped in.

God told Abraham to leave everything he had ever known. We read in Genesis 12:1–3 that He said, “Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” God wanted to make Abraham the father of a holy nation, set apart from all the rest, through which He would fulfill His greatest promise to humanity.

Now, if I had been Abraham, I would have had so many questions for God. “Now, hold on a minute, God. I love you, and I want to obey you. But isn’t this, I don’t know . . . a little too much? You really want me to pack up everything, leave my family, my friends, my hometown, and move to some country I’ve never heard of? Are you sure you want me to do this?” Abraham, however, asked no questions. The Bible tells us that he and his wife packed their things and set out for the land of Canaan, or modern-day Israel.

Abraham had little in common with his Canaanite neighbors. They worshiped false gods and goddesses while indulging in every pleasure and vice imaginable. Abraham worshiped the one God, Jehovah, and strove to obey Him. He was acutely aware of how different he was from his neighbors, even calling himself “a foreigner and a stranger” among them in Genesis 23:4.

Though he lived peacefully beside them, Abraham kept himself and his family separate from the Canaanites and their pagan culture. He lived as a nomad shepherd for the next century, never settling down in a city, living off the land and his herds until the day he died. His descendants, the Israelites, continued the tradition until God gave them permission to settle permanently in Canaan.

However, He still called them to be separate from their neighbors, warning them not to engage in their offensive practices. But the most important command He gave them—above all others—was to worship no other god besides Him. The Israelites were supposed to be a light to their pagan neighbors, pointing them to the one true God.

Unfortunately, as centuries passed, the Israelites struggled against an overwhelming urge to compromise their beliefs. Their neighbors had little desire to know God. Instead, they urged the Israelites to join them in worshiping their gods. “Why can’t you worship both our gods and Jehovah?” they would ask. “Surely you don’t have to choose between one or the other.”

Many Israelites were persuaded to practice the pagan religions of their neighbors, worshiping their gods alongside the true God. Time and again, the Bible tells us that “the Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.” They disobeyed God because they wanted to be like the other nations around them. It’s hard to swim upstream when everyone else is going the other way, and the Israelites didn’t want to move against the flow. Their wickedness grew over the centuries as their hearts turned further away from God, and eventually He was forced to punish them.

But in every century, there were Israelites who refused to compromise. They worshiped the true God, even when they were mocked and persecuted by their own people. These Israelites retained the mindset of their ancestor Abraham—the mindset of foreigners and strangers. They refused to compromise with their pagan neighbors, because they were “looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”

They realized that this world was not their home—Heaven was.

The Israelite kingdoms fell, and the people were carted off into captivity. They suffered for centuries at the hands of their oppressors. But the remnant remained, holding fast to their faith in God and refusing to bow before any other. It was from this remnant that Jesus was born, to take the punishment for humanity’s sin and offer them eternal life in Heaven.

Our world today is not so different from the world Abraham and his descendants lived in. Everything is being turned on its head—sin is now called freedom, biblical truth is now called mythology, and love is now called hatred. Like the Israelites, Christians today are being pressured to compromise their beliefs, but we must resist the temptation to give in.

Instead, we too must have the mentality of strangers—travelers in a world that is not our own. As Christians, we are the heirs of an incredible world to come, a heavenly realm full of joy and life. God has promised that we will live there with Him forever, but we are to do His work here until He comes for us.

Until then, we must strive to make a difference in this world by helping the hurt, comforting the brokenhearted, and showing them what the love of Jesus Christ is like. We must also share His Gospel with as many of them as we can, knowing that some will listen and accept it. God has made us His ambassadors to this world, and it is our duty to show its people what Heaven is really like by the way we live our lives.

Are you a Christian? Do you feel as if you don’t fit in anywhere in this world? That’s okay—you’re not supposed to. Our home is with God and His saints, who have put their faith in Christ to save them from sin and from themselves. We are wanderers in this world—ambassadors from the Kingdom of Heaven—sharing the Gospel until God calls us home to live with Him forever.

Until then, may He give us strength to be strangers.