Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Set Apart

Once again Marc's site got me thinking... I read an interesting post about alchohol consumption among Christians. The comment section stirred up some things in my mind that I have been pondering lately. Here are some of the things that caught my attention:

Paula said: If I went into a bar and saw Christian X drinking and Unbeliever Y drinking, how am I (or anyone) suppose to tell who the Christian is? Every aspect of our life needs to be set apart so we can be an example to non-believers...

Dixie said: Let's take this back to what Jesus would do. Would Jesus go into a bar? Would Jesus associate with people who were drinking at the risk of looking like one of them? Would Jesus share a glass of wine with his disciples to teach them about remembering his blood soon to be spilled? In fact, isn't this what got Jesus into so much trouble with the Pharisees? He didn't "look" or "do" the things he was "expected" to do. He didn't sit in judgment of the people that the Pharisees judged. He judged the Pharisees for judging others. I know you're not doing this Paula, but we have to watch that when we say we need to be "set apart" that we don't mean "higher or better than" others. Sometimes it's the attitude "I would NEVER drink -- I would never do such a thing" that is sinful, rather than the drinking itself.

Anyways... My thoughts haven't been stuck on drinking actually... they've been stuck on clothing... and being "set apart"... and what is it that REALLY sets apart a Christian?

I recently had a conversation with a friend about some Christian youth we both know. These youth dress in a sort of "goth" style. One of them has even chosen to pierce her ears in a sorta African style that means the hole for her earings are the sizes of dimes. Her parents don't like it, but haven't forbidden it. The question is: Is her personal style rebellious? Does it show a conformity to the world around her? Another youth dresses in the same sort of style and may not have been accepted as a bible camp worker because of the way he dresses. Are his clothes a reflection of his heart? Did the camp have a responsibility to shelter its campers from this sort of influence?

The fact is neither of these kids fit into the stereotype of what a Christian looks like... physically. But you know what? I say good for them. I grew up as a non-Christian. I had a very clear idea of what a "set apart" Christian should look like and I wanted no part of it. Do you know what most non-believers think Christians look like? Prissy, know-it-all, judgers just waiting to squash all the fun out of life... wearing sweater sets or suits and smug, self-righteous expressions that say, "You're not good enough."

Now I know that all Christians don't fit into that mold. Lots don't. In fact I've learned that appearances can be incredibly deceiving. (Some of those who look the meanist can have the most tender hearts.) But at the time I had been hurt very badly by people who fit perfectly into that mold. They were set apart all right. They were so set apart I knew I would never be good enough to be one of them... and I'm not... and neither is any Christian. That's the whole point. That's why Jesus had to die for us. None of us are good enough, no matter what we're wearing.

If I had been approached by a prissy, little-miss-perfect going on about God's love at that time in my life I wouldn't have listened. I would have looked into her face and seen judgement, even if it wasn't there. If I had been approached by some weirdo with dime-sized earing holes, wearing army boots and a crazy chopped up hairdo who told me Jesus loved me just the way I was... I definately would have listened, and I would have been pretty sure they weren't judging me, and maybe I would have even believed them. There's a place for weirdos in God's family. There's a place for prissies too. There's a place for all of us.

So, to answer my questions from the start of this post... I say all of us, unless we're willing to go the Hutterite route, conform to this world in some way. I have pierced ears and wear jeans which would have set me apart as a heathen and a hussy not to long ago. I say if a child shows creativity in their clothing choices, even if I personally think they look weird, we adults should look to their words and their actions as indicators of where their hearts are.

Basically, I'm saying lets not worry so much about being set apart. Let's worry about reaching out, let's worry about showing love, let's worry about knowing God as our final judge. He's the one that can see past all the trappings of this world straight into our souls...

What set's us apart as Christians? Our hearts. Love without qualification. That's what Jesus gave us. ("But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8 NIV) That's what we need to give to the world around us. I don't want to be an "example" to non-believers. I want to be Jesus to them. I want Him to be so alive in me that when people meet me they meet Jesus.




Father help me to remember who I used to be when I start to feel like I am better than those around me. Help me to see others the way You see them. Let me be so full of your love that it overflows to those around me. Help me to remember that You are in me, and I am in You. Help me to be set apart in my heart and totally connected in my life. Thank-you for giving me your love even though I didn't deserve it.

14 comments:

  1. amen sister.

    preach it.

    I'm thinking tonight of the words of St. Francis, "Preach the word at all times, and if necessary, use words."

    Our actions are indeed the most important. And lets not kid ourselves, the world knows when we are not being consistant with our words. It's that lack of integrity that pushes so many away from even getting to the cross.

    Rarely is it our piercings or hair colour or drinking a pint that pushes people away from Christ. More often its our lack of integrity. The world is not religious enough to see and judge those surface things as barriers to the cross.

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  2. Great post Rebekah. You rock.
    Scotty

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  3. First of all...I didn't say that he wasn't accepted at camp because of his personal style..I said that MAY have been one of the reasons.

    You know Becky, I agree with you. And I really agree with Randall - IN THEORY.

    But the fact of the matter is, that we live in a fallen world, with fallen, judgemental people, and people who are working out their salvation with fear and trembling, and often failing. And because of this, people WILL judge. Those teenagers will be judged according to their appearance regardless of the state of their heart, because that is what this world does...it looks on the outward appearance, and only God looks on the heart. I am all for expressing personal style - go for it, in my oppinion...but I don't think that we can be naive and expect that we wont be judged for how we look - whether our heart is right our not. These kids will be judged by others, by employers, by believers and unbelievers, and I think that we should be aware of what we are "putting out there". We KNOW were their heart is, and that they love the Lord, but most people won't even give then the opportunity to show that. They will form an oppinion about them before they can say one word -because that is the reality of the world we live in. I think that they (and we all) should keep that in mind when we are expressing our personal style, and choosing to engage in certain activites. How does the world see me? I'm not saying that it's right. But what is RIGHT, isn't necessarily what is happening in our world.

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  4. Shirley, I apologize for misunderstanding what you said about the camp. I'll fix it on the post.

    I don't agree that ONLY God looks at the heart. I think it is very possible for us as Christians to do the same. You say "We KNOW were their heart is, and that they love the Lord, but most people won't even give then the opportunity to show that."

    I say that they SHOULD be given the opportunity to show people their hearts no matter what they look like. I agree that being judged by appearances is a reality in our FALLEN world but I also STRONGLY feel that it is WRONG!

    You say "What is RIGHT, isn't necessarily what is happening in our world." It might be what is happening in our world but it most certainly shouldn't be what is happening in our churches and in our hearts. It drives people away from God. I've seen it happen. I've felt what it feels like. So I'll go on being "naive" and believing that it is possible to accept and be accepted regardless of what we look like on the outside.

    (Also, I think this world would be a much better place if we'd all stop worrying about how people see us and managed to only be worried about how God sees us.)

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  5. I'm sorry. I just have to add. If God can look at and love people's hearts we can too... because He is alive in us. There are LOTS of people who look at people's hearts the way God does. I've met LOTS of them. Vivian Dyck was one; she looked at a silly, trampy looking teenager and saw a heart that needed love and lots of it... without judging me... without trying to change me. All the workers at Soul's Harbor did it... they are a ministry that reaches out to the homeless, to drug addicts and to prostitutes. I've met them at camps and in schools. I've met some in churches and some on youth trips. I know I'm being judged sometimes, but I don't think it is naive to expect SOME people in this world not to judge me by the way I look... my husband, my son, my family, my friends, and definately my church family. Church should be a safe place where people are GUARANTEED to be loved and accepted for who they are and not what they look like. I'm not saying it is, I'm saying it should be. That was my point I guess. Not to deny judgmental attitudes exist, but to wish they didn't.

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  6. wow... i'm glad you clarified about the soul's harbour thing... although it's still super tempting to use the whole trampy looking bit... hmmm maybe at christmas.... my cousin becky, the trampy looking addict/prostitute... muahahaha

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  7. Trav,
    What? I'm not sure what was clarified... you've left me more than a little confused... which is actually not that uncommon... but, WHAT?

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  8. Oh wait. I think I get it. You thought I meant Soul's Harbor looked at my heart as well as Vivian Dyck... they might have, but actually I worked there handing out food while I was in bible college.

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  9. Hey Becky - We are not actually DISAGREEING here. I totally agree with you that we should look on the heart and not the outward appearance. I was just pointing out that what SHOULD happen and what DOES happen are often two different things. It's the unfortunate trend of the world and sadly of the church too.

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  10. Hi Becky.

    I think that blog was very well written, and I agree with every word as you wrote it. Maybe we don't change everyone in the world, but what an amazing thing that we can change a few.

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  11. I have to agree with you Becky. So many of us are too quick to judge just by the way someone appears on the outside. I know I've done it, and I have had it happen to me as well. Thankyou for being so honest and truthful.

    I find that so many "christians" think they are above people who are not and only hang out with their christian friends, go to christian schools, etc. How are we to be a "light" to this world if we are not willing to go beyond our comfort zone and get to know the heart of others, no matter how they look, act, or what they do. I don't know if that has anything to do with your post, but you know what I mean. If we surround ourselves with people that we only consider "safe" how does that look to the one person that may be in our life that is "searching" and isn't finding what they're looking for because they don't fit or look the "norm". I agree wholeheartedly with your post.

    I myself have been practising over the past year to not be judgemental to others, what I think, in the end doesn't matter, only God can be the final judge, not me. All I can do is be an example and be there for whoever comes into my life, whether it be a goth, punk, nerd, homeless, prostitute, alcoholic, drug abuser, etc kind of person. Why am I any better than them? I'm not.

    Thanks for saying what so many of us are too afraid to admit, or don't want to admit. Lets all look past the exterior and look at the heart!

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  12. I think you are right Becky. The bible does say that 'they will know we are Christians by our love' and that 'man sees the outward appearance but God sees the heart'. I think the appearance can be overdone and in some cases does reflect a sick mind but those are extreme. Love your blog by the way and read it all the time.

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  13. There's this story I know, it goes like this:
    Bill the Christian was trying to witness to Joe the non-Christian. They hung out, they never drank or did anything that would compromise Bill's standards, but they had fun nonetheless. Bill and Joe would talk and laugh, but Bill was always thinking, "How can I show him that Christianity is real? How can I steer this conversation back to his need for God, I want him to get saved MORE THAN ANYTHING!" Bill is a wonderful guy, and he tried for a long long time to show Joe the truth, and was so careful to be such a good example. One day over coffee, Joe asked, "Bill, what if I never become a Christian? What if I never believe what you do? You think I will go to hell when I die. But would you still be my friend, if you knew that? Would we still hang out and have fun? Would you still love me if you knew I would NEVER believe?"
    Something in Joe and Bill's relationship changed that day. Joe had called Bill on the carpet, and Bill had no answer for him.
    Bill told me this story, about how we miss the person in the Great Commission. We don't see people, we see unsaved people. Bill's heart was good, but as my dad said once, "I was so right, that I was wrong." He viewed Joe as a project, a problem to be solved and not a person to be loved. Bill speaks to young adults all over the world, and says that day changed the way he looks at witnessing, showing an example of Christ. Jesus still loved Judas, knowing he would turn away. Judas came back to faith you say? How about the millions of people he died for that never will come to him. There are more who wont than who will, and he still walked the road to the cross. Amazing. Makes it hard to wear a WWJD bracelet for me. But it challenges me, and makes me think, and that's better by far anyway.
    I thought I would write this instead of praising the blog, it deserves it, but everyone has said it all. You're awesome Becky, and you have an inspiring blog, I read it a lot.

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  14. Thanks Mel. I liked the story. It sums up why I'm so wary of the attitude that we should be "an example" to non-Christians. I'm not saying we shouldn't do good, it just seems to imply a "project" attitude that I am uncomfortable with. (And, like many Christians, it is an attitude I can easily fall into if I am not careful.)

    I think our motivation for the good things we do and choices we make should be to keep our own spirits healthy, not to keep up appearances so "others will see what we have and want it". It is very obvious to non-Christians when a person is just keeping up appearances for the sake of others and when they are simply living their lives the way God wants them to. That's when people really notice a difference and start to wonder if they might want we have...

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