I’ve only lived a few weeks now in the South but I’ve started to realize something. I stick out like a sore thumb.
I’ve spent most of my entire life in the Upper Midwest and considered states like North and South Dakota and Minnesota home. If you’ve seen the movie Fargo, the accents and phrasings are (regrettably) fairly accurate. We say a lot of “don’t you knows” and “yah, sure you betchas.” It sounds somewhat comical when I hear it played back but rather than deny it, I’ve decided to just embrace it.
In Tennessee where I currently reside, there’s definitely a unique dialect as well. Again it’s most noticeable in the language; both in the accents (the Southern drawl) and in the phrases people use. You get called “sugar” or “baby” or "honey" a lot. “Bless your heart” is a common one too. In all of it, I see where Southern hospitality is a real thing and I actually don’t mind it at all. I’m just not used to it!
In just about every conversation, the phrase “You’re not from around here, are you?” creeps in. It’s more obvious than I think it would be as I’ve never taken much thought to having an accent. As I’ve pondered the notion of not being able to readily blend in, it’s led me to think about a deeper subject matter. Today’s post asks us to consider the spiritual parallel that can be drawn. How can we live as Christians in such a way that we do not blend in to this world?
The last couple weeks have dealt with the topic of being a countercultural Christian (What Will People Think When They Hear That I’m A Jesus Freak? and They Will Know We Are Christians By Our…). Lately I’m asking myself what it means practically to look like a Christian and what the physical evidences of being a “Jesus Freak” are. In the effort to not blend in, here are some points I’ve been impressed to share:
1. Not blending in starts in the home
It might seem obvious, but the place where we have to begin practicing what we preach is in front of those we care about the most. My wife and I just stepped down from staff positions in a local church after spending the last 7 years of our lives in vocational ministry. Throughout that time, I was impressed by various spiritual mentors who said “whatever gains I made in my public ministry, they amount to nothing if the ministry I had at home suffered.” In other words, if I portray Christ to everyone in a church setting but have not displayed Christ in the home, I’ll have gained nothing. I have to show my wife and my boys what being a follower of Christ means before I show anyone else.
What does that look like? We pray together. We study God’s word and talk about it often. We take every opportunity to use “teaching moments” so that in every season, we experience God’s faithfulness as a family.
“Teach them [God’s words] to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 11:19
2. Not blending in means being salty
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It's no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men.” Matthew 5:13
To avoid the desire to blend in, a Christian needs to display flavor in a flavorless world. Salt provides flavor and a means for something to taste better. But what does that look like practically speaking?
I’ve talked a lot in this blog about behavior and what I consider characteristics of integrity. I might be old-fashioned but I believe there are things Christians do and don’t do that make them stand out and be “salty”. There are avenues of entertainment that we avoid if they are not wholesome (movies, TV, books, etc.). There are ways to use social media that will stand out from all the negativity that abounds in those venues. Again, how we parent and raise our kids is a great way to stand out. And how we talk to each other (i.e. less gossip, less slander), displays Christ’s love and is readily noticeable.
3. Not blending in means we give freely
If we are practical in the way that Christ calls us to live, it means our wallets reflect it. If anyone were to get a sense of where my priorities are, they would simply need to look at my checkbook register. I’m humbled to admit some months those figures reflect a treasure that is not based on things above, but on things of Earth.
This last point should be the most convicting to you and I because it touches a nerve. I cannot point the finger at anyone else and their spending habits without looking at my own first. But I only ask this question: where is your treasure today? Is it in things seen or unseen? What you long for…is it the stuff of this earth or something that money and material possessions cannot give?
I hope these last few weeks of blog entries have helped you realize the need to not blend in as a Christian. What I’ve attempted to do in a 1000 words (give or take) is to make this more than just a rallying cry with no follow through. The practical steps I’ve mentioned here are only the tip of the iceberg and in your context, I’d imagine the Holy Spirit is already speaking about what He’d have you do. I’m excited to know that we have the opportunity to make an impact upon this world that stretches beyond into eternity.
Life is short. Why blend in and why be part of the crowd when Christ calls us to so much more? Let’s be Jesus Freaks, let’s love like Christ has loved us and let’s refuse to blend in to the world around us.
God bless you! I would love to hear your thoughts and connect. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org