My dad was a pastor, so I got stuck with the label known to every pastor’s kid: PK. But, much to the congregation’s disappointment, the title didn’t stop me from being my mischievous little self. I have to tell you, I would like to have a $5 bill for every time somebody came to me and said, “Little Joe, you’re the pastor’s son. You should be an example.” They wanted me to be different, but they didn’t understand. I didn’t want to be an example! I was only five—I wanted to have fun with my friends and get into all the mischief they got into.
Nobody wants to be different. We want people to like us, and one of the safest ways to do that is to blend in, to be like them. But following Christ has never been about “blending in.” Following Him means to be like Him, to respond to life and relate to people the way He did. Inevitably, there are times when doing that makes you different. Granted, it can be risky and uncomfortable to be different. But that’s what being a follower of Jesus is all about—bringing the difference of your King to bear on the territory you’ve been assigned to: your home, your office, and your friendships.
We need to keep in mind that Jesus never promised that following Him would be a cakewalk. In fact, He made it clear that following Him would often create tension in a world that is going in the opposite direction. Just before His death, He spoke candidly to His disciples: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.
. . . If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:18, 20).
I’ll never forget the story of Abdul Rahman, the Afghani who accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior and faced the outrage of Muslim clerics in the courtrooms of Afghanistan. Although his conversion was considered a capital crime and his life was at risk, his faith stood the test. Right now while we are talking about this, thousands of believers in places like Syria, China, Sudan, and Pakistan are making the point that Jesus is more important than personal peace and comfort.
But for those of us who don’t live in life-threatening environments, being a fully committed follower brings its own kinds of trouble. It may be the threat of being cut out of the group and losing a promotion when the boss takes you and your colleagues out to dinner and then takes everyone but you to the strip club for an after- dinner drink. Or when your evolution-promoting biology professor scoffs at your stance on creation and gives you a lower grade on your paper. Forgiving a serious offense may have other fellow travelers thinking that you are the “village idiot.” Refusing to enter a gossipy conversation and declining opportunities to speak in unloving ways about others may even cost you something with fellow believers. Yup, sad but true!
Today, you will no doubt have opportunities to be different—to go against the flow. Don’t be intimidated. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” But then He said, “Take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). What an interesting thought: When I stick with Him through thick and thin, I may feel like I’ve lost, but in reality, I ultimately win!
In retrospect, I can now see how my antics as a PK reflected poorly on my Dad. It’s motivating to remember that our non-Jesus attitudes and actions not only leave us on the losing side but also end up reflecting poorly on the One we love so much.
Go ahead today. Make a difference by daring to be different for Jesus!
- Read John 15:18-27. In what ways have you dared to be different for Christ and felt the tension?
- When was the last time you chose to blend in with the crowd rather than follow Christ? Why did you cave to the pressure? What can you do to stand for Jesus the next time you are in that situation? Making a plan for the next opportunity to follow Jesus is important. Be prepared!
- What does it mean personally for you that Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me”? Check out the whole story in Luke 9:21-26. Be specific, honest, and courageous in your answer.
- When was the last time you realized that in this upside-down world, it is followers who are willing to go into the face of adversity for Jesus who are truly blessed? (Don’t miss Matthew 5:10-12!)
- Set aside some time to look at the Voice of the Martyrs Web site: www.persecution.com and pray for those who are facing persecution today. Ask that God would continue to turn Satan’s attacks into victories, and that followers of Jesus around the globe would boldly stand for Him and rise to the challenge of being different for His sake.