Thou Shalt Be Strange

Are Christians supposed to be “peculiar people?” At first blush this might seem true, and it is in some ways (1). However, it is false if one means that we have to be “strange”,  “weird”, or “peculiar.” Biblical exegesis seems to be the issue here, the Bible passages are being confused on who is doing the “peculiaring”.

One usually hears it expressed in such terms as we need to dress different, act different or have something on our person that is a different from non-believers. Usually this is not referencing to just dressing modestly, but rather “different”, or maybe how I perceive it, “queer” (in the traditional sense of the word).

Proper exegesis

The Bible presents a much more robust and full understanding of peculiarity. One of the first steps in exegesis of any writing or conversation is to read or listen to the context. In other words, when reading the Bible, understand the concept within its context to find the full meaning. Second, it is to have correct definitions.

Peculiar in the Old Testament

The authorized translators used the word “peculiar” five times in the Old Testament (OT). Each time it is referring to a treasure. Four of those times, it was God who was the one who made his people peculiar (or treasured in our modern-day language) unto himself. Only once in the OT do we see a person using this word, it is a king gathering kingly treasure unto himself.

Set aside

In the New Testament, which is where most pull this phrase from, we see the word appear twice Titus 2:14 and 1 Peter 2:9.

Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works (Titus 2:14).

“Peculiar,” in the book of Titus, means to set aside or make a special people. Take a look at the verse again, this is God’s doing, not ours. He has made us special, we are now his. However, this verse does have a job for us. It is not saying we should try to look different, strange, or weird, but rather be “zealous of good works.” That’s is our job. In other words, God made us special, we are his, our job is to serve him by doing good works.

Purchased

As stated, the second time “peculiar” shows up is 1 Peter 2:9.

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9)

The time the word shows up in 1 Peter, it is talking about a purchased or acquired people (2). Again God is doing the “peculiar,” not us. He bought us, we are now his. However, again like the other verse, the writer gives us a responsibility, we are to show praise to God since he called us out from sin. We know of a number of ways we can praise God. This includes by loving him and keeping his commands, by song, faithfulness, and verbally expressing our praise to him. It is done by pointing the lost to the Kingdom of God and helping others.

Looking different 

We do not need to try to be peculiar nor look, act, or be different or strange. As Christians, our nature will be intrinsically different than the parts of society that are sinful. Differences will come quite fast if we are a Christian. We are given commands for actions that set us apart. Following Jesus puts us on a different path from the rest of society. That path includes praising God and having good works.

Take for example Esther, she did not reveal she was Hebrew. One can only assume she dressed, acted and spoke as others in her day and time. It was her words, life, heart, modesty, and her willingness to risk her life that made her such use for God’s glory.

If we are living the Christian life, we will be different. Trying to be different is not the issue, rather God sets us apart if we chose to follow him, in doing that we will be different. The difference is is this, are we to look strange or are we be followers of Christ and be godly? This is the great distinction!

(1) Example, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, 7:1.Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” 

This passage says we are to be separate by being clean of sin and being holy.

(2) The 1611 King James Bible translators took two different Greek words and used one English word “peculiar” for the translation. Newer versions may not use this word peculiar.

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