The Lord hears the cries of his daughters, he knows the pain in their hearts, the emptiness they try to seek to fill in places outside of Him. He hears you, He is calling to you, He is knocking. Open the door.
A very commonly reference scripture, that is thrown around for a myriad of reasons, is “be in the world, not of it”. We use the scripture to explain why we are to behave differently, talk differently, act & react differently than non-believers. For many it becomes a badge of honor, when ever they are living a “holy” life. This holy life can be everything from not EVER using a curse word, drinking a drink, homeschooling their kids, dressing your kids in certain attire, not watching television, listening to only classic hymnals vs. contemporary praise music, Christian private schooling, demanding church attendance or service, etc.
So, if you have your daughters, dressed with their long hair in buns, no make up, dresses to their ankles, sleeves to their wrists and collars as high as their jaw line…. and someone of the faith says “hey, why do you do that?” — Your defense is “Duh, because we are to be in the world, not of it.”
And then, you (or I) will get offended that we even needed to say something to explain why we are so “different”.
Now before you get upset with me, just set that aside for a moment.
In the world of tattoos, it’s a common to hear complaints about being treated differently because you have a tattoo. Same could be said of dying your hair a different color, or choosing to dress a certain way. You’ll find this same mentality amongst anyone who chooses to be “different” than the status quo.
It’s an interesting paradox. We act differently or look differently than the rest of society, yet we want to be treated the same way. We purposefully go out of our way to be different, yet get offended when someone dares to ask us about it, comment about it (especially negatively), or even goes so far as to mock us for it.
As Christians, we make the conscious decision to be IN the world, not OF the world… and then take offense when that gets noticed & talked about. And yes, I could agree that we shouldn’t HAVE to explain ourselves, but when you choose to be different you are choosing to defend that choice too.
Going a bit deeper, there are two reasons why we are not to be IN the world, that is behaving, acting, thinking, talking, spending, et’al like the rest of the world.
1) It’s about our personally holiness. If we do not allow ourselves to be put into places of temptation, we are actively working against sin. No one will be sin free, Jesus was the only perfect person. However, we can greatly diminish our sin capacity by removing ourselves from things “of this world”.
2) It’s about reflecting Christ to others. Others will take note of that difference in us, and thus are pointed to Christ. Why, we do something becomes more important than the actual act itself. When others notice that difference in us, it will cause conversation. In those conversations, we are able to plant seeds.
Will we be mocked? Certainly. Jesus, himself, was mocked. But, there will be those who are drawn to that difference & want to understand more.
So, when you choose to be “different”… be confident in that decision. What ever you are doing (or not doing) is a conviction, laid upon you by the Holy Spirit. There will be those who don’t understand… and some who don’t even want to understand. And that, is ok. You cannot expect the world at large to understand, accept or respect that difference. It’s almost like you are speaking a different language.
It’s equally important to remember that how you respond to those critics is being watched too. It not only blemishes us, but also the reflection of Christ in us.
We may hate having to explain ourselves, over and over again. We need to examine the circumstances of our situation. If it is a new person, then we have to remember that while we may have repeated this info a million times in our lifetime, it may be their first time hearing it (or attempting to understand it). If this is someone we KEEP having this conversation with, yes it is frustrating, but if they are still asking… they care. They are trying to understand, and yes… they may be even trying to convince you to change your mind.
We know that the things God asks of us as a group of believers, or individually, will be tested. There will be those who speak against us. How many called Noah a food for building an ark.
In the end, it doesn’t matter if they understand. It only matters that we are obedient. The choice to be angry, defensive, etc … that is your choice. Instead of being surprised or upset by it, choose to anticipate the questions and reactions. It takes the sting out & you are more likely to respond positively to the negative reactions of others.
“Obedience does not require understanding.” (The Matrix, Reloaded)
Occasionally, we all go there… to that place of “what if”. We ask our selves the questions that will take us back in time.
What if I made a different choice?
What if I took a different route?
What if I said something sooner?
What if I did things differently?
What if… what if… what if….
The problem is that “what if” is one of the enemies greatest tools to make us discontent with the blessings God has given to us. “What if” makes us question the blessing, as if it wasn’t good enough. It implies there may have been something better. “What if” makes us look at an illusion of what could have been, instead of appreciating what is. “What if” makes the grass look greener, life look better. “What if” is also a lie.
Because, it never happened. There is no guarantee that things would have turned out anywhere CLOSE to what our “what if” imagined.
“What if” tells us what we want to hear. That some how life would be better, we would have more things, go more places, be happier.
“What if” comes with a price.
If we allow ourselves to buy in to the “what if” and dwell in those thoughts too long, we can find ourselves moving away from our blessings and becoming discontent. And, in some cases, we will move mountains to make that “what if” a reality. It seldom works out that way. That “what if” can end up costing us everything.
To fight those “what if” thoughts we have to focus on the blessings. We have to focus on what is good, noble and right. We have to look to God and say THANK YOU for the blessings I never saw coming!
In our thanks we find contentment, and in our contentment we find happiness, and in our happiness we praise God for seeing and knowing more than we ever could.
And, in that praise, the best thing we can do is share those blessings with others. When we have a peace and happiness that doesn’t make sense to others, they are intrigued. They want to understand what is so different about us.
It is then we can say, in all honesty….
Myself, my life and my decisions may not be perfect… but my God is. I trust in Him, because His word never fails. He gives me the peace that is beyond understanding. He gives me a hope and a future, greater than I could have ever imagined for myself. My God loves me. In His love, His sacrifice… I find contentment, peace and happiness. It’s not that I don’t face trials and obstacles, I just don’t face them alone.
In Acts 15 we get a lovely glimpse into a group of believers, trying to figure out what to do with the message they have been entrusted to deliver to the world. Leading up to this moment, we had people traveling in different directions, different routes sharing the gospel. They were instructing new believers on what they need to do, in order to be saved. There were discrepancies that would come up as the gentiles would ask them questions, each person answering from his own perspective and opinion. They brought their issues to the Pharisees who would weigh in on the matters. Finally a council of elders & apostles met to discuss this situation.
After some time and discussion and prayer, Peter would address the group and give a response of grace. Peter ultimately points out that it would be foolish to put the same rules upon the gentiles that the Jews were unable to uphold. Barnabas and Paul shared about the miracles they experienced in their times with the gentiles. James affirmed that God had declared that the gentiles would be His, as well. Then under James leading, and in accordance to the Holy Spirit, the drafted a letter that would clear up the matter. It would be sent out to all the cities. The matter was settled.
Now, some time later, Paul tells Barnabas that he thinks it would be a good idea to go back through the cities and follow up on the letter. And then it happened, they had a disagreement. They both agreed that they should go, but they disagreed on whom should go with them. It was such a heated disagreement, that they actually parted ways.
Both men had the same goal in mind, however they were in disagreement about the manner in which to go about it.
If you have served in ministry, you may have experienced this.
If you work in a company, you may have experienced this.
Even in relationships, you may have experienced this.
The interesting thing here is that the scriptures don’t point out that either man was wrong. Both of these men were fundamental leaders in the early church. However, they were in such disagreement that they could no longer be in each others presence. Yet, they would continue from that departure, each doing the work that the Holy Spirit would lead them to do. Both important parts of the body, same goals, but a different way to accomplish that goal.
Their separating ways was a good thing, allowing the work of the Kingdom to be broadened.
There will be times in our life, in relationships or in service, where we are in disagreement. Sometimes, that disagreement is something that needs to be reconciled and repaired. However, there are occasions where that disagreement is a divine intervention, that calls both parties to separate ways. Simply because their tasks are no longer to be completed together. God may be ready to move us into new directions. We can’t move toward new directions if we are digging our heels into our current location.
Acts 15: 39b -40
Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord.
As they chose their traveling companions and left to strengthen the churches, they were praised and given well wishes by the believers.
The important thing here is not that that they departed ways, but how they departed ways. We are not given any indication that they left with malice toward each other, or that their relationship was broken. In fact, they were each praised by those who were seeing them off. Throughout the scriptures we are told that we are to reconcile to each other and to God. Reconciliation doesn’t necessarily mean going the same way. It means we can go different directions with love, respect, blessing and hope for each other.
Lord, thank you for your word that continually teaches us through example on how we should treat each other in our relationships and our departures. Each and every example in your word points us to Christ and our need for a savior. Thank you for your word that never fails. Amen.
Suggested Reading: Acts 15