As Christians, we are exhorted to be “in the world but not of the world.” (John 15: 19, Romans 12: 2)
This is far more difficult than Liking, or Sharing, a Facebook meme. Too many Christians are convinced that they no longer conform to the pattern of the world because they attend church on Sunday while outcasts sleep in. The evidence of the renewing of their minds is that they take a co-worker aside and murmur, “Please do not take the name of my Lord Jesus in vain. It is most offensive to me, and my God.”
The world hates them, they are convinced, because they use the word “Jesus” in everyday conversation.
But living the life in which we are the child and God is our Father, in which we are the servant and He is our Master, is more than superficial words and actions. It requires trusting Someone we can’t see, but can know, with every aspect of our existence.
“The Lord spoke to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people,” Isaiah 8: 11 says.
“Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.”
What do “these people,” the culture in which we live, fear? What do they think is “conspiracy,” what do they think is out of step? Conversely, what do they think is normal?
Well, let me show you “normal” in my world, the American society:
We get up early; eat fast; slap our face together and drive to work — because all useful, valid, valuable people work in an official capacity (think: cubicle, cash register, or classroom) at least 40 hours per week. We do what we’re told, and in the “free” time allotted to us we shop, text on our phones, check social media, attend sports events, perform community service, and wish we had more money than we do.
We never admit deficiency, defeat, insecurity, or inability. If we’re unemployed, too sick to work, poor, or not doing either A) our dream job (at which point we can be paid less than a whole lot) or B) anything in which we are paid a whole lot, we are failures. “A” is only acceptable for awhile; eventually we are expected to turn a profit on it. We value money, busyness, and social activity.
If our life looks too different from this “norm,” we are non-successes, and whatever our Christian life is, it must fit into this paradigm.
But Isaiah continues in verses 13-14:
“The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread, and he will be a sanctuary.”
All of our lives look different. Some find the focus of their life maintaining it, as they battle cancer, chronic disease, infections that stymie their doctors, viruses, and assorted physical ailments. “Normal” for them looks really, really abnormal from cultural precepts.
Other people struggle with money and position all of their lives, no matter how hard they work.
Still others battle with the idea that they are losers because they don’t have a lot of friends and they’re not particularly “social.” Quiet people frequently feel that they are weird.
In our culture, they are.
But that’s not what we’re all about as Christians, so focused on fitting into the dictates of our surroundings that this becomes our primary goal. Our prayers center around throwing our circumstances up at God and demanding that He “fix them.”
“My life doesn’t look like anybody else’s,” we grieve.
The passage in Isaiah concludes,
“. . . but for both houses of Israel he (God) will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes him fall.”
For those of us who follow God, who make Him — not His gifts, not His power, not His Big Daddy potential to do things for us so that we look successful, or at least normal, in our culture’s eyes — He is a sanctuary, where we can rest and say, “I’m tired. I’m sick. I’m scared. I’m hurt. I’m lonely. I’m unsure of myself. But I’m also Yours.”
For those in the world, steeped in our culture, however, they can’t say these things, and they keep tripping over God either because 1) they’re avoiding Him or 2) they’re insisting that His purpose is to fulfill theirs.
As Christians, we trust God with our entire life, whatever it looks like, whatever we do or don’t do, however we are configured and whoever we are, period. It is not God’s goal to make us fit into the world around us.
It’s to make us look like Him.
Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I encourage believers to seek God — the Great I Am — as opposed to a little god, the One Who Does Stuff for Me.
It’s not easy, believe me — the first challenge is distinguishing the real God from the substitutes, but when we approach our Father with humility, and ask Him to teach us, He does.
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