The Benefit of Not Belonging

Life’s hard when you don’t feel like you fit. I’ve felt that way a lot in my life, whether with family, friends, or just observing a world that didn’t feel like home in any way. Other people’s values seldom align with my own, and when you’re surrounded by difference, it can feel like a curse.

I am here to tell you that it is a blessing.

I was reading through Numbers a couple of days ago (the most exciting book of the Bible…), and I stumbled upon a passage that got me thinking about this topic of journeying through a “strange land.” In chapter 2, God is giving Moses the layout for Israel’s camp, how each of the tribes is to line up facing each of the Cardinal Directions with three facing east (2:3-9), three facing south (2:10-16), three facing west (2:18-24), and three facing north (2:25-31).

In verse 17, though, we see that the Levites are set apart. “The tent of meeting, with the camp of the Levites, shall set out in the center of the camps; they shall set out just as they camp, each in position, by their regiments.” While the Levites are technically members of Israel, they camp out in the midst of the tribes rather than with them. Because they are the chosen priesthood of God, they are “not enrolled among the other Israelites” (2:33).

Christians are also meant to be a priesthood chosen by God. You’ve probably heard the phrase “in the world, but not of it,” taken from an interpretation of the Gospel of John, chapter 17. It is intended that Christians find their citizenship in heaven (Philippians 3:20), not anywhere on earth. In short, we are supposed to live our lives in a state of “not belonging.” Why is that?

Put simply, “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). Sure, Jesus is talking about wealth in this specific context, but the truth still holds for other aspects of life. Too many people put their political affiliations, personal desires, national identity, or social status before their faith. Many people in today’s world have fallen into the trap of serving a worldly master to the exclusion of God, choosing sides over and against each other.

This is where the outsiders come in. Just as doubt is a gift to be utilized for the benefit of all, so is one’s place as an outsider. The Levites are chosen out of Israel because they are to mediate between the people and God, making atonement for the sins of the people. Prophets were called to proclaim a message of change and repentance to their audiences, no matter who they were. Christians are to be the people of God who live and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus and stand by it, even if it means sacrificing themselves.

People who “don’t fit” have a responsibility to use their voice. The benefit of being “on the outside” while in the midst of this crazy world is that those kinds of people tend not to get sucked into some of the crazy allegiances that pit us against the rest of our earthly brothers and sisters. Don’t get me wrong, we all have our idols, but when we walk as “strangers in a strange land,” we become free enough to ask the tough questions of ourselves and others.

Without blind allegiance, there is nothing that can’t be questioned. This world needs people who are willing to question even the most sacred human institutions and practices. If we don’t do that, we simply fall deeper and deeper into the idolatrous cycles that fuel our hatred and malice toward one another.

So you may feel like you don’t fit. Lord knows I do. As I have said before, this doesn’t mean you are broken. Rather, it means you have something valuable to contribute. If you are finding yourself convicted by this post, that’s fine as well. Let the Scriptures comfort and guide you. If we embrace our “outsider” nature and recognize our hope as being something greater than us and this world, we can rest assured that the Spirit of God will move in our lives to a powerful and transformative degree.

Peace be with you!

2 thoughts on “The Benefit of Not Belonging”

  1. Thank you for this. I’ve often felt like I didn’t belong. A few years ago I was pondering why I never fit in with a certain group. Since I was detached from them at the time I was able to see them in a different light which showed me the answer.

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    1. My pleasure, MJ! Thanks for reading. I think it is a far more common feeling than we tend to think. Part of life, I believe, is finding places we do and don’t feel comfortable in order to explore them and learn how we can be a safe place for others, without self-condemnation.

      Like

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