It is astonishing how a massive body of people who follow history’s most non-conformist leader now struggle to resist conforming to a world that distracts from and rejects all they stand for. Out of everything Jesus taught, preparedness for being unmistakably different was one of the lessons most common to His ministry. Yet it is one disturbingly lacking in our generation. His people are to be a light in a dark world, not ashamed to acknowledge their beliefs and behaviors that depart from the mainstream in unpopular ways. I don’t want to be part of a Christianity that craves mainstream acceptance. I want to be part of the Christianity that relentlessly pursues a focus on worldwide repentance.
Jesus Christ taught His disciples many profound truths about humility, prayer, grace, suffering and the power of God among a host of other issues critical to following Him. Many of these topics are now titles of new books, flashy conferences and sermon series. But He also covered some less popular topics, like sincerity in religious practice, rejecting the sins culture celebrates, the responsibility to embrace the marginalized instead of shunning them like the wealthy cultural elite and our call to boldly respond in faith when facing opposition. Teaching others to obey what He commanded is part of the Great Commission. However, it is important to note that Jesus charged His church with teaching “all” that He commanded.
Out of everything Jesus taught, preparedness for being unmistakably different was one of the lessons most common to His ministry. Yet it is one disturbingly lacking in our generation.
One of Jesus’ most marvelous qualities was His readiness to be distinctly counter-cultural. Jesus was a righteous non-conformist, and Christians are to follow Christ’s example. Of course we are not called to be distinct for distinction’s sake alone. Christian peculiarity is not about rejecting humanity’s opinions to gain admiration. Rather it is fueled by an unrelenting commitment to being who Christ called us to be without regard to our circumstances and surroundings. Blessed is the generation that is confident like a tree planted by water, that does not fret in either the drought or the downpour.
To live as righteous non-conformists, the body of Christ must wisely and boldly avoid temptation where our culture promotes indulgence. It must forgive, even when vengeance is justified by worldly standards. It must gently confront sin, even if it fosters awkward circumstances ripe with tension. Perhaps most importantly, it must love unconditionally, even the people our society considers disgusting, disposable or despicable.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with having friendships with unbelievers built on common interests. The call to non-conformity concerns those parts of our culture distinctly out of tune with the Word of God. That is when we should call each other to unashamedly battle the temptation to harmonize.
It feels good to fit in. It feels right to be accepted and affirmed. This is what is so lovely about the unflappable love of God for us. We need to be comfortable with living differently. Following Christ will not always be cool, and it will never be mainstream. We cannot serve two masters. Trying to follow Christ and gain acceptance from a world that hates Him is a hopeless endeavor. It is time to reevaluate whether we have learned from Christ how to be righteously abnormal. And it is time to pray for the audacity to shine like stars in a dark and twisted generation.