Do you ever think the world’s gone crazy? After the most recent election season, no matter who you voted for, I will presume we all have a similar answer to that question. Hello. Can we all just take a collective sigh of relief that’s over? The last six months, and the last few weeks in particular, we’ve seen how destructive humans can be when we live from our own agenda. I think if there’s one positive thing we can take from this election season it is this: we’re called to be different.
But do you really think you are? Different? Did you get caught up in the mess? Did you sling as many accusations and judgments as you accused those on the other side? Or, like me, did you type out a dozen different well thought out responses to some status update or another, spending time, energy and frustration only to hit delete – delete – delete… Or maybe you didn’t… Sigh.
It happens. So many times I’m afraid I’m not as different as I’d like to be. But maybe that’s okay. We’re human. We’re flawed. We’re trying. Maybe a better question is: Do you want to be different?
We live in a world of distraction and, from reality television and social media to the nightly news, I hardly know what’s real anymore. As Christians, we may not be of this world, but we do live here. Becoming like the world isn’t our design, and pretending we are isn’t easy. Or worth it. Both options are exhausting. Perhaps it’s time to find the courage to stand apart. To noticeably be different. Not because we’re better. We’re not. Not because we’re smarter or wiser or more righteous. Nope.
I read a quote the other day by an anonymous writer that said: “Don’t be afraid of being different. Be afraid of being the same as everyone else.”
What are some of the ugly behaviors you saw this election season? Which ones do you see repeated over and over in your family, your community, or even your church? What harmful words do you hear time and time again? We live in a culture that’s been on a fast-track to nowhere. Did you watch how people treated one another these last few months? Neighbors, friends, even family. While it’s easy to justify, criticize and cast blame, we’re made to do hard things. Like change. And while each one of us alone can’t change the world, together we can.
Want to change your culture? Begin changing the only thing you can: YOU.
1. Model grace: We are real people living in a hard world and the reality is we will fail. We will fail each other and even ourselves. Some of us hold extremely high standards for others that they can never achieve. Some of us hold unattainable standards for ourselves. Fight against the lure of perfection; it’s an empty illusion. Allow people to be who they are…and learn to live into who you are too. Grace reigns.
2. Withhold judgment: I don’t know about you but I’m good at casting judgment. In fact, I went to law school with my vision set on being a judge someday. But just this morning I watched a rail thin transient man wander into a shop I was in, wearing no shirt and long stringy hair. He was missing a tooth. I found myself making all kinds of judgments about who he was and the bad decisions he had made and the truth is I know nothing about him. I know nothing of his life, what he has seen, who he has lost, or what he has suffered. I caught myself doing it and instead of looking away, when our eyes caught, I smiled. In the same measure you judge, you will be judged.
3. Focus on you: I believe God designed each of us with a purpose and a passion that only we can fulfill. We can run from it or we can simply say yes. But leaning into God and His plan will bring refinement. It will require sacrifice. It will necessitate surrender. But it will mold us into someone new. When we take our eyes off the crowd and focus on what God is doing in our heart and our mind then we get to become who He made us to be. Regardless of what anyone else is doing.
4. Love others: Loving people is hard because we’re all jacked up. We disagree on politics and religion and all number of social issues. That’s okay. Really. It is. We can still be kind, compassionate and considerate with people we disagree with when we follow the three guidelines above. It’s not about us. You’re not more right than anyone else no matter how much you think you are. You’re not the judge, rule-keeper, controller or enforcer of everyone around you. You’re only in charge of yourself and you are called to love. Love wins.
5. Leave a legacy: Every week I’m amazed how fast it speeds from Monday to Friday. My oldest son turned 9 this year and as I flipped through the photos of his life I couldn’t believe how fast it has passed us by. Too many weeks I run through my days not paying attention to the little things that really matter. What is a life and what do you want your story to tell? Take the long view. Life is made in the moments. Make them count.
You guys, this past election season almost killed me. I had to unfollow friends and even family members who became rude, offensive and downright mean. How did we get here? It’s so easy to bash culture and blame media for the sad decline we see happening all around us, but our culture is made up of millions of us.
We have the power to change it by changing ourselves.
We were made to do hard things. Hard things require us to focus on what we can do. How we can help. What kindness we can show. What we can contribute to make our world a better place. We may not be of this world, but we do live here. You may sit here reading this frustrated by all the people who have wronged or hurt you over the last few weeks and believe me I could name a few myself. But does it really matter? Will it help? Change your culture and change the world by changing the only thing you can: YOU. Choose to pour out grace; pass over judgment; focus on what God is doing in you; love others and work to leave a legacy with your life. In the end, that will matter. Don’t be afraid of being different. Be afraid of being the same as everyone else.