Courage to Be Different

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you
out of darkness, into His wonderful light.”
-1 Peter 2:9 (NIV)

IF YOU HAVEN’T NOTICED, nearly every aspect of our calendars is ordered around the rhythm of the school year.  We even program much of our church calendar with sensitivity to what happens on our school campuses.  Big yellow people movers, we call “school buses” (I used to drive one), keep us constantly alert and aware of the precious cargo they carry.

While meditating on the passage of Scripture above, the school aged youth of our church and community came to mind, and in a weird flashback I found myself feeling the social pressure of peers that often came in the locker room, on the field of sport, at the movie theatre, or simply about town or at the mall—any place where my peers would congregate. Being different was something that wasn’t always fun and the pressure to conform was huge. 


But it isn’t always outside pressure to conform (be like us or be shunned) that confronts our youth.  Sometimes it is the inner longing or passion of the heart to not want to be different that troubles and drives our youth into compromise.  The line of argument, or rationale, for this inner desire to be like everyone else hasn’t changed in my lifetime.  In fact, I have this sneaking suspicion that it goes back to the very first temptation ever foisted upon humanity by the “father of lies.”  The line that I always used went something like this: “But everybody else has one and everyone else is doing it.”  And the response that I typically received in return went something like this: “If everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?”  My stupid, but unspoken answer to that question would most often have been, “Yes.” 


The pressure to compromise and conform is a problem not confined to our youth.  It seems we never outgrow this temptation. In fact, in some ways it seems to increase in our career driven adult years.  The world hammers away, relentlessly pounding and squeezing us into its mold (Romans 12:2).  We must not yield!


The nation of Israel was sovereignly born for the purpose of being a unique and chosen instrument of God to reveal His glory among all the nations of the world.  But rather than embrace the distinctive standards of their privilege and calling, they bucked and rebelled like spoiled children.  “[We don’t want to be different.]  We want to be like the nations, like the people of the world” (Ezekiel 20:32; 1 Samuel 8:19-20).  So, the nation called by God to be the unique torchbearer of truth and purity and revelation abdicated her holy calling by abandoning all of her distinctiveness while lusting to look like, act like, and be like the nations around her.


In much the same way, the Church is God’s, “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God [to] declare the praises of Him who called [her] out of darkness into His wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).  In the King James Version we are called a “peculiar people.”  But it seems the church does not want to be different either.  We don’t want to be peculiar.  We don’t want to be distinctive. 


The Church (at least what many perceive to be the Church) seems to be abdicating her role as the torchbearer of truth and purity just as the nation of Israel had done.   It appears the average “Christian” doesn’t want to look like the odd duck out.  There are those who boast of their freedom in Christ as a cover-up for nearly every sinful aberration one could think of.  Studies have shown that the average so-called Christian shares the same values, the same addictions, the same (or worse) divorce rates, the same entertainment standards, etc., etc. as their non-Christian neighbors.  Our children have no memory of an age where stores and restaurants were closed for “The Lord’s Day”.  We have lost our ability and our desire to reserve even one day for the worship of our Creator God and the Redeemer of souls.  We want to “go out and play” just like everyone else.  We bend over backward not be different—which is a blatant rejection of God’s will that the Christian is to be HOLY—distinctively different.


Knowing the pressures that our young people continually face within our schools, may the Church and Christian parents once again embrace with determination, dignity and purpose the call to be winsomely different and to demonstrate that rare beauty to the youth of our churches and the youth of our communities in our behavior and values.  And while we’re at it, let’s not forget to pray for our youth and for their courage to resist the “I-wanna-be-your- clone” pressure, which is HUGE.  Pray that they will be able to embrace the transformation that comes only through Christ and the courage to be different.


May God do a mighty thing in and among the youth of this generation!