We all have moments when we just want to be part of the crowd. It starts early in life, as pressures among children, lead those who are smart, unique, gifted or just different to try their best to be accepted, become like others, blend in. I’ve been there, done that.
When does that tendency to blend in come in conflict with our desire to stand out for Christ?
I had this thought the other day as I was listening to a sermon from the book of Acts, chapter nine. That evil man, Saul, was going to great lengths to “destroy the church.”* After wrecking havoc on Jerusalem, he decided to take his show on the road, and began traveling toward Damascus, even with letters of approval, to take prisoner any man or woman he found, “who belonged to the Way.”*
Thankfully, we know the rest of the story, and how the Lord nipped that plan in the bud and turned the evil Saul into Missionary Paul before he did more damage. Yet, Paul’s story is not my focus today, but that of “the people of the Way.”
If someone were searching for Christians today, would he find any? Would he find me? Would he find you? Or, are we so well-blended-in with the rest of the world around us, that we’re hard to spot, much less accuse and arrest?
Apparently, in Jerusalem, Saul was able to spot the Christ-followers, because he dragged many of them off to prison. I wonder what made them stand out from their fellow Jews of the day?
To answer this question, I’m going to go backwards in the story and this book of Acts to see what made this new People of the Way look so different from others. Here’s a few clues:
- Some were willing to die for their faith. Stephen would be the first of many who gave their life for Christ. He was stoned after giving testimony for Christ. (Acts 7)
- Some had faces like angels. That’s what the Sanhedrin saw in Stephen, as they were accusing him with false witnesses and attacking him for his faith. (Acts 6:12-15)
- Some were willing to serve those in need from their group. This is seen as seven men were chosen to help in distributing food daily to the widows among them. It led to the word of God spreading even more. (Acts 6:1-7).
- Some were teaching daily in public and in homes. There was constant proclamation of the Gospel of Christ. (Acts 5.42)
- Some were put in jail and beaten for their faith, but they rejoiced in the opportunity to suffer for Christ. Jealousy from religious leaders led to their imprisonment and punishment. (Acts 5:17-41)
- The believers were unified in heart and mind and shared of their possessions to help one another. There was no needy person among them, because they met each other’s needs. (Acts 4:32-36)
- They ate together, studied the Scriptures together, and had fellowship together. They were devoted to this and to prayer. As they grew in their faith in Christ, they did it as a group, together. (Acts 2:42-47)
- They were filled with the Holy Spirit. As they came to faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit came to live in them. (Acts 2:38-41)
Wow, if you think about this radical shift in the lives of Jews who had been living a life of obedience to the Law and ritual to that of a Spirit-filled, growing group who loved and served one another, in the face of intense opposition, you would see why it’s was easy for Saul to find them.
The early followers of Christ stood out like sore thumbs in their society.
Now, fast-forward two thousand years or so and look around you or look at yourself in the mirror.
In what ways do I stand out for Christ? Is it easy for others to spot me as a radical follower of The Way?
In case you’re wondering? Try these questions:
- Am I filled with the Holy Spirit?
- Do I spend consistent time with fellow believers in study, fellowship, prayer and sharing of meals?
- Is my heart unified with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? Am I sharing of my possessions to help those of them in need?
- Have I joyfully suffered for my faith?
- Am I teaching others from God’s Word? Do I have others over to my house for Bible study?
- Am I serving the Body of Christ?
- Does my face reflect that of Christ? Do I have the face of an angel?
- Am I ready and willing to die for my faith?
The things that made those believers, whom Saul was hunting, stand out are exactly the same which would make us easy to spot today.
The problem is, if we are not easily found by those who might seek to persecute us for our faith, will we be easily found by Christ upon his return? Jesus said it himself:
When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?Luke 18:8
May he find us standing out and standing firm this day and every day until his return. Blend in no more! He is coming soon!
Grace and Peace