I was stirred and made a bit uncomfortable by something that was said in the sermon at LifeChurch.tv this past weekend.
I don’t remember the exact words, but I walked away with this nagging question in my head, “How are you different?”
As Christ Followers, we should stick out like a sore thumb in our culture. I’m mainly speaking about the culture here in the United States because I’m not very familiar with any other.
Why? Why should we stick out?
Because our society practically idolizes every kind of impurity and we are called by Jesus to be salt and light to the world. (See Matt 5:13-16)
Creating Contrast With Culture
Jesus challenges us. He says in Matthew 5:16 that our example – the way we live on a daily basis – should reflect positively on God. It should bring glory to the Father in the eye’s of our co-workers, neighbors and family.
The people I come in contact with should clearly see I am different.
But, if my actions look pretty much like everyone’s around me, then how am I different?
Our culture is preoccupied with lust, material possessions and selfishness.
If I blend in, if I watch the same movies, read the same books, listen to the same music, talk the same way, dress the same way, conduct myself just like everyone else and use my money like they do, then how am I different?
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9 (ESV)
Jesus was different. He stood out.
If I want to copy Jesus, then I have to consciously choose to be different and I have to lead my family differently than most. I have to create contrast.
For me, I want to:
- Live debt free so I can give generously to my local church and other ministries.
- Boldly speak and write about God and what He is doing in my life.
- Avoid movies, television and other media that pollutes my mind.
- Help others that need it so they can see the goodness and grace of God.
- Lead my family to live as Jesus taught us to live.
Of course, these things have to flow from a changed heart. I have to be different on the inside first. This isn’t about keeping a bunch of rules. I can’t just be going through the motions. However, at the same time, I’m challenged by what James said, “Do not merely listen to the word…Do what it says.”
The Problem With Being Different
So, all this lead me to reflect and I have to admit, I’ve struggled with being different. In many ways, I haven’t wanted to stand out and here’s why.
One reason is because of my addiction to comfort and the other is what Jesus says in these words.
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” John 15:18-20 (NIV)
If I live differently, then I almost certainly will be persecuted or judged harshly by others in one way or another. Jesus makes it pretty plain.
Being a true Christ Follower means that some people are going to think I’m strange. They are going to judge me for not letting my 12-year old daughter go to PG-13 movies. They are going to wonder why I live a more frugal lifestyle than most. They are going to criticize me for speaking out about my faith.
Of course, I’m fortunate because in my country, for now, I can still practice my faith openly. The persecution I face is very minor compared to what some of the rest of you might have to face.
Still, I’m ashamed to admit, it has held me back from being as bold as I should be.
It Gets Worse
So, as I’ve said, that nagging question, “How are you different?” bothered me. But, what bothered me more was when Pastor Craig stated the following:
“Don’t worry when you are persecuted. Worry when you are not.”
That kind of stung! I obviously haven’t been different enough for Christ because I haven’t faced much, if any, persecution.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven…” Matt 5:11-12
I haven’t been bold enough for Jesus because no one is directing any insults or barbs my direction.
I’m going to fix this. I’m not asking for trouble, but I do want to help people see Jesus and if that comes with persecution, then so be it.
What about you? Are you living differently so that people clearly recognize that you are a Christ Follower?