We are not alone. Those words are likely to summon up thoughts of stargazing, of E.T., and of episodes of Star Trek and The X-Files. And while SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) is apparently an ongoing pursuit, for now we can probably safely proceed with life on the assumption that such a search is a long shot at best. The only aliens most of us will ever encounter, in fact, are ourselves.
The followers of Jesus are referred to in Scripture as aliens (1 Peter 2:11, NIV “foreigners”), people whose citizenship is in another world (Philippians 3:20)—the redeemed world that has been brought under the kingdom of God. In Colossians 3 the apostle Paul writes that we “have been raised with Christ… (our) life is now hidden with Christ in God.” We don’t really belong here.
The word “alien” sounds like a lonely one, and sometimes in our day-to-day experience we can feel a little lonesome. Taking a glance around our workplaces, schools, or neighbourhoods, we don’t see a large company of fellow-Christians. Are we, after all, a silly, superstitious minority of gullible loners?
Not at all.
When it comes to our company of fellow aliens, redeemed sinners living in this troubled world as signs of what God will do for all who come to Jesus is faith, signs of what God will one day do for his world, we need to take a longer, wider view. The world is not just my circle of friends. Its story did not begin in 2016. There’s more to the world than our patch of land. There’s more to the story than this brief moment in which we happen to live.
The church has long had a practice of honouring those Christians who have gone before us. Many of them have special days commemorating their legacy. (St Valentine’s Day and St Patrick’s Day, now celebrated for entirely different reasons, are probably the two most readily recognized by the general public.) They are often called by the title “saint,” a term that has come to sound lofty and unattainable, while in the New Testament a “saint” is simply what every believer in Jesus is: a person set apart by the Holy Spirit to live for God. A saint isn’t an especially perfect person, but rather a sinner forgiven and treasured by God.
Among Christians worldwide, November 1 is commemorated as All Saints’ Day, a day to acknowledge all of those saints who don’t have their own special day. Today we can acknowledge with thanksgiving that God has had people serving him—as humble signs of his kingdom—down the millennia and across the globe. Wherever people turn to Jesus Christ in faith, God has his saints.
God has people serving him today both in our own backyard and in the parts of the world we’ll never hear of, people of all ages and abilities living out their days to God’s glory, whatever he has called them to be or to do—each and every one of them a saint, each and every one of them our brother or sister.
No, we are not alone.