“I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” John 17:14-16
What does it mean to be in the world but not of it? Sometimes we conform to the patterns of this world in ways we don’t even realize. Collin Hansen, editorial director for The Gospel Coalition, reminds us that as we follow Christ’s example, we need to be counter-cultural and set apart.
We can learn from the early church to understand what it means to stand out for Christ.
“In the book Destroyer of the Gods by Larry Hurtado – he’s trying to explain how the Gospel spread so quickly. How did it become this dominant religion in the Roman Empire? One of the things that he describes in that book is that early Christianity was both accessible and odd.”
“What was also interesting is that Christians spoke in the idiom of the age. They didn’t necessarily dress differently, they used the same language as other people, and they lived and they worked in many of the same way as other people.”
There are groups of people today who demonstrate what it means to live an “odd” lifestyle. For example, Collin describes how distinct the Amish way of life is compared with the rest of the world.
“What you see with the Amish is that the Amish are so clearly odd, they’re so clearly different. They’re doing the horse and buggy thing, they cook differently, they farm differently, they worship differently, etc.”
“A number of years ago they had a horrible tragedy with a shooter who killed a bunch of children in the school and it was just so terrible. And the world saw these families pray for the family of the murderer and offer forgiveness. That was odd. That was odd, and yet, in some ways it was actually appealing.”
He explains why it’s important for Christians to be both odd and accessible.
“As Christians we’re going to, by necessity, be odd because we’re not going to believe the same things and we’re not going to do the same things. We’re not necessarily going to sound different from other people or look different from other people, but we’re going to be accessible…we’re going to be in the world.”
While lot of us are waking up to realize that we need to stand out from the culture, it requires a daily commitment: That we will not conform to the ways of the world, but we will live a life that is distinctly set apart for Christ.
Collin Hansen serves as editorial director for The Gospel Coalition. He is the author of several books, including Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists and Blind Spots.Why we need to stand out for Christ