On Tuesday I went for dinner with some friends. Friends I’ve known for years and grown up with. But it’s not easy because I don’t fit. I’ve never really. I’ve always stuck out, as I’m sure you can well imagine, but it’s getting worse.
It’s a dilemma I’ve always struggled with: Paul wrote that we were to be in the world but not of the world, but where do you draw the line?
If I detach myself completely, I end up with nothing in common with them: my life becomes alien and irrelevant to them and my Christian witness non-existant. If I try to partake in their lives I live in danger of bending my own preferences and opinions, never mind morals and beliefs, in order to conform and fit.
I could choose to be more like them. I could choose to make my life about sex and alcohol, about “living for the weekend” as the song goes, about earning enough to spend enough to get drunk or dressed up to impress. I could have chosen that life. But, long before I had the chance to choose, God chose me, called me out for a different life, a different existance. I get to live in a different way with a different purpose: loving and serving the King of the universe.
Maybe I’m generalising when I talk about my friends. They’re far deeper than I’m making out. It’s just that they don’t always show it and this is how it comes across to me most of the time. And the above paragraph makes me sound arrogant and pompous – the truth is that most of the time I’m making it all up as I go along, trusting God to shove me in the right direction. I am in no way better than my friends – I’m just as lost and in need of God’s love and mercy.
But I do believe that followers of Jesus, Christians, are called to live a different way: to live the way. God called the Israelites to be His people, His very own possession, and to stand out from the world which it was a part of and the nations it was surrounded by. Jesus taught his followers a new way which made them stand out: love for enemies and giving everything to the poor wasn’t exactly the way the Romans or Jews worked at the time. It’s this kind of radically different lifestyle that we today are still called to live.
I’ve often wondered if there’s a point of balance that I’ve missed. A way of holding true to Christ but also to living like/ with/ as my friends – a way of being more a part of the group, of better understanding of where they’re coming from.
The thing is, I don’t want to find balance. I want to be thoroughly unbalanced. I want it all to be about Jesus. Even if that means me looking like a complete pilchard. Even if it means my friends don’t understand me or want to know me. I don’t live to please them – 1 Thessalonians 2:4. Jesus said: “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you” (John 15:18-19).
I’ve just finished Shane Claiborne’s Jesus for President. It challenged me on just about everything. For too long the Church has been a part of the system, it’s been too easy to be a Christian, we’ve been the persecutors instead of the persecuted and have conformed to society becuase we thought it was conforming to us. Everything has changed though and it’s about time we started sticking our necks on the line again. We’re called to come out of the world. We’re called to be hated.
I’m the black sheep. And that’s just fine by me.