This post is one that I have been thinking a lot about lately, but is more directly sparked from a comment in my last post, take care of each other. Here is the comment in it’s entirety, so as not to run the risk of misleading or misquoting:
Hi Dan, I agree in much that you said but is there no rules in your mind or is just everythings ok? As long as you love, God excepts how we want to live, God wants us to be differant then the world (leaving the extablished church out of it). He does want us to follow him and his word. God loves the sinner but He dosen;t love the sin. So we need to be sure what we do is not offending him. (according to His word.)
It was actually a really good comment and said clearly something that all of us think about and struggle with. I don’t want to discuss every thought in the comment. I want to talk about one particular subject: we, as Christians, are supposed to be different from the world. I agree with that, but the question I struggle with, and assume a lot of other people do as well, is how we are supposed to be different. I talked a little about how I understand this in a reply comment, but felt like it warranted it’s own post.
There are a lot of people who like to use the calling to be different as an opportunity to force people to conform to certain rules and standards, or even worse, they use it to try and keep people from embracing others who do not conform to those standards. You have to make a firm stance against gays and women who get abortions because we are a holy people, and we need to make it clear that we don’t agree with these things. We may be unpopular for our condemnation of others, but we’ll live with it because the world hates us, because we are different. That is the rationale. I think it is a bunch of bullshit.
There are lots of world religions. They all have rules. A lot of them have way stricter rules than most Christians follow. They have required fasts and prayer times. They require an incredibly strict and traditionally moral lifestyle. They require certain clothing and certain activities. So, when Christians make a stance against abortion or gays or divorce they don’t look any different than anybody who follows any of these other religions. To dismiss the followers of those other religions is ignorant and naive. All religions have very dedicated followers, many who are willing to die for their beliefs. Strict moral lifestyles do not make christians different from those who live dedicated to other religions. Sorry to burst your bubble on that.
So what does? What shows that we are christians is that we follow Christ. It would make sense, therefore, that what makes christians different is something that we do which emulates Jesus. Looking at what Jesus did and said and how he lived I think there is a very clear theme: love. Loving God and loving others. He said that this was the ultimate Law, really the only Law, as all other laws were fulfilled by loving God and others. The central moment of His life and ministry, and truly all of history was His death and resurrection. He explained that this is the ultimate act of love: to lay down your life for someone else. He demonstrated His love for the Father in obeying Him and he demonstrated his love for us in taking our punishment. It seems that his actions and his teachings all clearly demonstrate that love is central to following him. Love is demonstrated through putting others before yourself. Love is taking care of each other.
Love is what should make us different, and will draw people to Christ. Christians have certainly shown the world that they are different. They have shown the world that they are bullies and self-righteous and that they consider tradition more valuable than people. This is the type of difference that pushes people away, and hurts people, and makes it look like your belief system is worthless. We should be demonstrating love, a love that serves others, through actually serving, not through bullying and “leading.” Jesus served his followers by washing their feet, by crying with them when they were hurting, and through dying in their place. His followers served one another through sharing all that they had, through providing for those in need, and through risking their lives to share the good news of Jesus with those who needed to hear it. This is different from anything the world has to offer. This is the type of different that Jesus was and is, and this is the type of different that I think we should be demonstrating. It is hard, and it requires sacrificing ourselves and our desires and our plans and valuing others above ourselves, but isn’t that the example we have? Isn’t that central to what it means to follow Jesus? I think so.