Although it’s been a while since I’ve regularly blogged, I have been posting elsewhere. So here’s something I wrote not so long ago on what I believe makes followers of Jesus distinctive…
What makes us distinctive?
I have friends who tell me it’s the fact that we’ve acknowledged what Jesus did on the cross so we’re saved and we live our lives accordingly.
But, I watch them, and they’re driven by much of the same compulsive attitudes (success, power, authority, popularity, status) that the rest of the world is. The biggest difference is they’ve channelled those attitudes, desires, whatever into what has become socially acceptable within Christian culture.
Same same… but different.
In this case, the only distinctive thing is the culture in which it’s all lived out. It’s like they’ve justified them all by slapping the word “calling” on them and giving them the appearance of Godliness.
Sure they’re different, they don’t smoke, they don’t swear, they don’t sleep around, they don’t cheat on their partners, and they frown upon those that do. Mind, I know many unsaved people who don’t do any of these things either. But then my unsaved friends don’t read bibles, and turn up to church on Sundays and don’t tithe, maybe that’s it?
I know many unsaved that pray… so that can’t be it, although they wouldn’t put “in the name of Jesus” on the end.
But, isn’t that still just behaviour modification or even ‘sin management’ (as Dallas Willard so eloquently puts it)?
Isn’t the thing that actually makes us distinctive not that we talk and walk with people just like us, and exert self-control in some areas of our lives, or even that our lives have been modified so that we fit within acceptable standards of behaviour with the Christian culture, but rather that we’re becoming more and more aware of how much we’re loved by our Creator and that that love is transforming us on the inside into his image. So that, all that other stuff no longer matters to us?
We don’t need power, control, authority over others, success etc to make us feel ok or even acceptable to those around us. We no longer need to perform for the masses, conform to their expectations or even place expectations of behavioural standards on others. I mean, isn’t that what Jesus came to set us free from? Not only sin and it’s grasp on our lives, but along with that (for surely it’s all connected?), free to live unencumbered by all the stress of conformity to those around us and their expectations? Religious or otherwise?
Free to be the beloved of God.
Free to live for others instead of self.
Free to promote others ahead of ourselves.
Free to allow them to ruin our reputations before men.
Free to go where religion can’t take us, to befriend the drug addict,
the sex addict,
the foul mouthed youth,
the single parent,
the angry teenager,
the enemy of our nation,
and those that act in all the other ways we find offensive, because, really, we’ve encountered the love and forgiveness of Jesus and we get that just like us, these are just hurting, broken people, responding to the fact that they ‘feel’ unloved and unimportant.
But we know that’s not true. They are loved more deeply and more honestly then anything they can imagine, and what really matters is that the people around us begin to get how loved they are by their heavenly Father. That they (and we?) no longer have to lash out at others to protect or exalt themsevles. They are loved due to the mere fact that they ‘are’ the beloved of God, His creation, His kids and Jesus died for them as much as he died for us… He loves them, and if we don’t, then John tells us we don’t know God.
And I believe our distinctiveness is found in the fact that we wont isolate or reject the ‘unlovely’, we wont shun those who disagree with us, we wont judge the broken, because we know that they already feel wretched and dirty, it’s grace they don’t understand, and we have that by the bucket-load!!! We get ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ because He has met us in the midst of our junk, and poured His love into our hearts.
That’s what markes a believer as distinctive to me. Not just the ‘card carrying christians’ who show up every time the church doors are open and have exchanged ambition in the ‘world’ for ambition in the church, because ‘that’s what you’re supposed to do’… but those who are the people of God because the Spirit of Jesus lives in them.
I reckon that is our distinctiveness, and no amount of separateness “from the world” is ever going to work that in us. The only thing that will is if we get what God did in the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord and allow that to transform us into his image.
From the inside out… not the other way around.