Are we, as Christians, meant to be odd, to not fit in?
"You really can't follow God and fit in," says Francis Chan in his series on Surrender.
That's a really strong statement. Did he really mean that? Here's a little more context: "... you really can't follow God and fit in. I mean you really can't pursue everything Jesus called you to and look like everyone else. Because Jesus didn't fit in... In John 15 he's telling his disciples if the world hates you keep in mind that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own, but because you're not of the world but I choose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." This series is designed for teens as they navigate the world of high school. This quote comes from the part on surrendering status. However, this concept is not only for teens.
In John 15:18-19 Jesus says, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you."
As Christians, we put on Christ as our Lord and Savior. The very name "Christian" implies we belong to him. Doesn't that mean we should be like him? Being like him implies we will be persecuted. "Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you." (John 15:20). But, then we also read verses like Luke 14:25, "Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them." And in Mark 5:24 it says, "And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him." There are at least 33 verses that talk about great crowds following Jesus.
What do we do with that? It appears to be a contradiction. Let's take a closer look at what is really going on. When Jesus began his ministry he did a lot of healing and various other miracles drawing interest from the crowds. In John 6 Jesus is addressing a crowd that has swelled to upwards of five thousand on the coast of the Sea of Galilee. He had never been more popular. Jesus then uses a child's lunch to feed every single person in the crowd and there were still leftovers. After dinner the crowd camps out for the night. The next morning they wake up looking for Jesus, probably wanting some bacon and eggs. What they find is that Jesus has crossed to the other side of the sea. Jesus knows this crowd isn't after him, there are there for a free meal. In verse 35 Jesus tells the crowd he is the only thing on the menu. "I am the bread of life," he says. In verse 66 it says, "From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." Jesus never waivers from his message to try to restore his numbers. He seems to be okay with his waning popularity. Referring to this story in Not a Fan, Kyle Idleman concludes, "It wasn't the size of the crowd Jesus cared about. It was their level of commitment." I believe that is exactly what God is after in us today. Jesus humbled himself, giving up his status as God, to become one of us. He was beaten, mocked, and killed. He let go of his status to love you and me. God wants you to humble yourself. He wants you to surrender your status for any opportunity to love those around you. God is not calling you to be intentionally odd and not fit in. He is calling you to quit looking at yourself and instead focusing on his mission and doing whatever you can to reach as many people as you can.