For the past couple weeks I have been away on holidays in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. One of the interesting observations about being there was I really stood out. The majority of the people who live there are older retired Caucasians. Being Chinese and quite large, I stood out quite easily.
We live in world where “fitting in” is a value that is cherished. In fact the middle layer of Maslow’s hierarchy is where “belonging” fits. Many churches and groups make it a priority. In the past, it used to be “believe” followed by “belong” but today, those values are reversed. Although I think this is a valid philosophy, there is an inherent danger to making beliefs and values secondary to “fitting in” and being “relevant.”
Pastor David Platt wrote a book called, “Counter-cultural.” It is a good book that challenges how we live our lives as Christians in an every-changing culture. It has inspired me to think about some of the lies we as Christians have bought into in how we live our lives and practice our faith.
But Platt’s words also got me thinking about what it means to truly follow God in our world today. Too often I hear Christians adopting the views and values of our culture without really seeing what God’s Word has to say. Often times these views evoke a higher principle… that being whatever the culture deems as “right.”
Many Christians today base their values and lives on how Jesus is perceived.
The fact is, we say to be a follower of Christ requires us to live like Him.
We want to emulate His character in our lives. So we ask: Was He loving? Yes! Was He merciful? Yes! Was He accepting? Yes! This is where many Christians will stop.
But there is more to Jesus than that. The one question many Christians avoid is this one: Was He tolerant of sin? I would suggest the Bible says “No” but many Christians today would disagree. We are quick to adopt “loving,” “merciful” and “accepting” but never intolerant?
So how does this translate in a Christian’s or a church’s life?
I was reading about a Christian Fraternity on a state university campus in the United States. This Fraternity had a solid reputation for being a group of solid young Christians with high standards of acceptance.
In fact, in order to join you had to have a pastor’s recommendation to be accepted into the Fraternity. Regular church attendance somewhere was not only encouraged, but it was expected. They did a lot of community service projects and held regular group Bible Studies.
In the early years, many young people solidified their relationship with Christ as members of that Fraternity. It was truly a great organization because Jesus Christ was at the core of everything they believed.
But this fraternity was also a bit of a laughing stock around campus. They were considered wimpy because they didn’t drink and have wild parties like the other fraternities. They were mockingly called a bunch of goodie two shoes and they were often the butt of college pranks.
One year they decided to do something to change their image on campus. They were tired of being known as the wimps and weirdos. They wanted respect. So they decided to give their fraternity a makeover. They began their makeover by changing their name. They took out all references to Jesus Christ in their name and all of their literature.
Their Bible studies became optional and it was just a matter of time before they just stopped having them. They also stopped doing community service projects. It wasn’t long before they started to loosen their high standards a little. They stopped requiring a pastor’s recommendation for acceptance. In fact you didn’t even have to be a Christian to join. Their standards continued to loosen and they began to tolerate non-Christian behaviour.
Things continued to evolve and in less than ten years that once strong Christian Fraternity regressed to the point of becoming just like every other fraternity on campus. They had just as many wild parties and their reputation around campus was just as wild as that of any other frat house. They wanted to become like the rest, and they did.
In 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 Paul says this: “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
I think for many Christians, it is extremely challenging to live counter cultural. Even churches are compromising in order to be “relevant” in society. We are constantly being pressured by television, music, our peers, the government and even other family members to “give in” and be like everyone else.
But the call to Christ is a call to live radically different life than the world. We are called not to “fit in” rather we are called to be “salt” and “light.” In Titus 2:12, it says God’s grace is changing us to “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions.” That means we are to be different. We are to stand out. We are not to be like everyone else.
To be like the world changes everything. What makes us unique? What makes us appealing if being a “Christian” requires no change of values, desires or behaviours.
God is calling us to be a holy people, set apart for His glory. May we learn to shed off the world’s values and ways and put on the “whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11). We do this by spending time in His Word which leads to being “transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2) so that we can be the “salt” and “light” we are called to be (Matthew 5:13-16).