Be Different and Stand Out

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Romans 12:1-2 (Message translation): So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

What stands out to you as you read these verses?

The main thing that stands out to me is that we, as Christians, are to be different than those around us. This means we treat people differently. We do not get lost in the crowd. We positively impact people with the love of God through Jesus Christ. This passage says so many things we CAN do, that we shouldn’t miss the point of things we SHOULD NOT do.

For us to live in this world as followers of Jesus Christ, we should look at what he said.

Matthew 5:13-16 (CEB) “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? It’s good for nothing except to be thrown away and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city on top of the hill can’t be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.”

Jesus is basically saying that we are to bring out the best in people by how we act. If we allow people to suck the good out of us, we have nothing left to give. We are to be beacons of light (God’s never ending love) to everyone and should stand out from everyone else. When we try to blend in with the culture and be like everyone else, it is like we are putting our light “under a basket” so it is hidden.

Our good works also involve how we treat people. Many times we can easily engage in bullying and hurt another person’s spirit to make them think they have no value. Jesus summed up the Old Testament laws this way, showing us how we should act in this world: love God and love people.

To be the salt and light of the earth means that we are people who:

  • do everything for the GLORY of God
  • love each other unconditionally
  • treat everyone EXACTLY the way we would want to be treated (Matthew 7:12)
  • be forgivers
  • do not judge nor condemn (Matthew 7:1-5; Romans 2:1-11)
  • welcome anyone and everyone in the group
  • be people who respect and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ
  • not do things or go places simply because “everyone is doing it”
  • learn and have our own opinions and not be easily swayed
  • stand firm in your beliefs; but do not condemn opposing views (learn to listen)
  • and many, many, many more good things we can do in this world

We should keep our focus and attention on God. C.S. Lewis says, “Aim at heaven and you get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.” This means that when we seek for and focus on God, we are able to love people and will treat them better and not worry about the crowd. When we solely focus on things of this earth, we miss the mark and will end up compromising just to make people happy.

Our task and challenge is to bring people to Christ. We do not do this by acting as everyone else acts; but rather by showing how Christ makes us different and how he makes the difference. To be people that follow Christ means we are becoming more and more like Christ.

Matthew 5:48 “Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete.”

So, what do you think?

Judging & Dividing

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When we look at our world today, it is easy to see divisions on many grounds. We have divisive politics, economic standards, acceptable social practices, how people need to view other people’s way of life, etc. These are challenging times we live in and it is sometimes difficult to take a stand on one side or the other without being ostracized and downgraded by opposing sides.

One of the biggest issues we face today is how we can do the loving thing to our neighbor so the love of God through Jesus Christ can be shown. The phrase “WWJD” is thrown around a lot and people use this to ask “What Would Jesus Do?” This has become a very divisive phrase since people have a particular viewpoint based on “their interpretation” of the Bible.

Matthew 7:1-5 says, “Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. You’ll receive the same judgment you give. Whatever you deal out will be dealt out to you. Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye? How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when there’s a log in your eye? You deceive yourself! First take the log out of your eye, and then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s or sister’s eye.”

These verses have been used to point out the “other person’s” errors and that “they” need to be more loving and compassionate. These verses come straight out of the Sermon on the Mount which deals mainly with how to live with our fellow neighbors. If you or I believe we are the ones in the right, we will typically explain to the opposing person why they are wrong and try to belittle them into feeling bad for having a “wrong” viewpoint which is really different from ours.

What could these verses from Matthew be telling us today? Let’s look at them again. Notice it does not explicitly give which side is right. It is really saying that before we go around telling another person why their wrong, maybe there is a reason they believe themselves to be right. What if we simply took time to listen instead of writing the other person off? Also, we should be careful that we are not being hypocrites and try to think we are better than the other person, because the truth is that we all have a “log” in our own eye and should work to remove that first.

Have you ever noticed how we have been given opportunities to “love” a sports team, political party, school, religious teaching and automatically demonize the other side? Think of it like this, “if you like (or love) UT, OU is the evil enemy and visa versa.” This can really be applied to anything we “love.”

So basically, before we (no matter what side on ANY issue) try to demonize or belittle the opposition, maybe we can realize they have value as well. Maybe, instead of thinking we are the ones in the “right,” we could take some time and understand where the other person is coming from.

If we acted this way, we can easily change “WWJD” to “WHJD.” Instead of asking “What Would Jesus Do?” we could remember “What Has Jesus Done?” The answer to this is simple: he ate with the sinners, welcomed and ate with the outcasts, prayed (and prays) for people (you and me), discipled people society thought unworthy, lived a life we don’t live, died for our sins and for us. Remembering what Jesus has done can change our way of thinking and could help us move the Kingdom of God closer to those who need to experience it instead of arguing over who’s right and who’s wrong.

The mission Jesus entrusted to his disciples, and to us, is still to be witnesses and bring people to Christ not showing a division and pushing people away from Christ.