Christians Are Different
Cultural identification is the new answer to the age-old question, “What would Jesus Do?” It seems everyday someone is writing, speaking, or singing the need to answer the world by showing the world that Christians are no different from the world. In our attempts to reach the world with Christ, and to “become all things to all people” so that we may convince them of the truth claims of Jesus, it seems to me that we tend to surrender too much. We are called to engage the world, challenge the world, and win the world, but never are we told to become like the world. Yet this is what we see and hear too often from Christians today.
The world calls Christians hypocrites and we go out of our way to show them that we are not. The world calls us judgmental and we do everything we can to prove them wrong. The world says that Christianity is irrelevant and out of touch and we fall over ourselves trying to be hip, contemporary, and culturally relevant. The world would define Christianity out of existence and we seem all too willing to oblige them. For some reason we have become convinced that the best way to win the world is to show that world that we are no different from them. Yet, when we do this we not only lose our distinction, we ultimately sacrifice our message. The message of salvation in Christ Jesus is different from anything in the world. Those who would faithfully carry that message would be different as well. Christians are different from the world. We always have been.
When the Bible describes the Christian, the descriptions could not be more diametrically opposed to what the Bible says about someone who is not a Christian. The Christian is understood as unmistakably different from the unbeliever. According to the Word of God, the unbeliever is blind (2 Cor. 4:4). The Christian sees. The unbeliever is deaf. The Christian hears (Jn. 10:27). The unbeliever is dead in sin. The Christian is alive unto God (Eph. 2:1-5). The unbeliever is a slave to sin. The Christian is a slave to righteousness (Rom. 5:17-18). The unbeliever is in the kingdom of darkness. The Christian has been brought into the kingdom of light (Col. 1:12-13). The unbeliever is a child of the devil (Jn. 8:44). The Christian is a child of God. These and others remind us that the distinctions could not be more stark or dramatic.
When the world calls the church hypocrites, we must remember the source. That is the assessment of someone who is blind, deaf, and in captivity to sin. When the world calls the church judgmental, we must not forget that their desire is for there to be no judge other than their own standard of righteousness. This is why Paul could say, “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life” (2 Cor. 2:15-16). Christians should never say we are no different from the world. To be a Christian means to be different. Our hope is different. Our motivations are different. Our aroma is different. We live not for the glory of this world but for the glory of God. Our message is not eat, drink, and be merry. Our message is eat, drink, and be merry for the glory of Christ. All other eating , drinking, and merriment is in vain and damnable. If Christians don’t clearly say this, who will?
Should we engage the world? Of course we should. We have no choice. To not engage the world is to go out of the world (1 Cor. 5:10). Christ calls us to be salt and light, not in heaven but in the world (Mt. 5:13-14). Therefore we live for Christ in a Christless world. Nevertheless, we must proclaim Christ clearly so as to draw the lines of distinction even as the Bible draws them. Let us not forget, the world is not our friend. We are at war, “and if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?” (1 Cor. 14:8).