Running With the Gentiles

SpeedLimitSignIt would be so easy to fit in.

A little compromise; that’s all it would take. Skip church one time to go to that football game with your friends. Use language that’s a little more vulgar so others don’t laugh at your prudish vocabulary. Tell a little white lie to avoid hurting someone’s feelings.

We’re not talking anything drastic, here. All you’d have to do is lower your standards just a little bit; just enough to lessen the contrast between you and everyone else, to blend in a little more and stand out a little less.

The pressure’s there, no doubt about it. It’s like being the only guy going the speed limit on a highway full of lead feet. All you’d have to do is give it a little more gas—just a little—and you could stop worrying about tailgaters and the whooshing past you while their drivers give you dirty looks. Besides, who’s going to give you a ticket for going five over? No one, that’s who. You’re not going to get in trouble, so why aren’t you doing what the rest of us are doing?

There’s more to the story, though, and we know it. It’s not about doing just a pretty good job. It’s not about getting away with as much as you can without getting caught. It’s about integrity. It’s about doing the right thing for the right reasons. It doesn’t matter if it’s getting on the nerves of the guy who’s riding an inch from your bumper or if you’re all alone and no one would ever know if you floored it. We’re called to live up to God’s standards, even when it’s uncomfortable, even when we’re sure we could get away with it, even when everyone around us is doing otherwise.

But it’s hard. It’s so hard—especially when, like Asaph, we start to notice that those who flaunt God’s law seem to be no worse for the wear.

They are not in trouble as other men,
Nor are they plagued like other men.
Therefore pride serves as their necklace;
Violence covers them like a garment.
Their eyes bulge with abundance;
They have more than heart could wish.
They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression;
They speak loftily.
They set their mouth against the heavens,
And their tongue walks through the earth …
Behold, these are the ungodly,
Who are always at ease;
They increase in riches.

(Psalm 73:5-9, 12)

It’s even harder when those same people are urging us to be more like them, looking at us sideways when we insist on clinging to outdated values with no place in the modern world.

And that, more often than not, is the caricature of God’s people: good people, odd religion. Our worldly friends like our dependability, they like our trustworthiness, they like our integrity, but they think we’re crazy for doing the things we do. They’re convinced that we’re good people in spite of our strange religion—it never dawns on them that we might be good people because of our strange religion. It’s the very practices they mock that shape us into the people they respect.

Peter puts it this way: “They think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you” (1 Peter 4:4). The people around us are going to think we’re ridiculous for not running with them. They’re going to laugh at us, talk bad about us, and call us prudish and out-of-step for refusing to compromise.

And that’s okay, says Peter. Let them. Let them laugh; let them mock. “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11-12). A day is coming when it’ll all start to make sense to them. They’re going to realize that our strange old religion is exactly what they need in their lives. That moment might be today, it might be tomorrow, it might a thousand or so years from now in the second resurrection, but it’s coming—and in that moment, the very good works they spent so much time mocking are going to become their template for glorifying and serving God.

So hang in there. It’s hard to stand up under all that pressure, and it’s tempting to hide our lights under a basket, but remember where it’s all heading. Remember how Christ warned us, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19).

We have a choice to make. We can have the world—Satan’s world—or we can have the future our Lord and Savior promised us. It’s one or the other. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:36-38).

To the world, we’re always going to seem a little strange and out of place. And that’s good. If the world saw us as one of its own, we’d be failing in the worst possible way. The fact that it doesn’t means we’re on the right track.

Stand strong, brothers and sisters. Let your lights shine in this darkened world. The example the world is mocking today may be the very example they’re using tomorrow to glorify God.

Make it a good one. Be who God called you to be and stand out.

The compromise isn’t worth it.

Until next time,
Jeremy

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