Curious friends have asked me questions along this line before, “What’s the point of being a Christian? I don’t see any difference between someone who goes to church and someone who doesn’t.”
Questions like these reveal more about professed Christians than they do about non-believers. If the world could not see the difference between them and us, we ought to ask why. Christianity is a form of counter-culture to the culture of this world. The first century saints turned the world upside down (cf. Acts 17:6). There is no reason why we should do any less.
I would like to revisit with my fellow Christians how we who wear the name of Christ are different. Every one of us needs a reminder now and then, lest complacency and forgetfulness catch us unawares.
To begin with, Christians are new creatures in Christ. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (2Co 5:17).” Our minds – paradigms, attitudes, and worldview – are radically changed and the conduct which follows is changed too as a consequence.
The mind of a Christian is no longer geared toward this world but toward heaven. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God (Col 3:1-3).”
Along the same vein, the Christian strives for higher things. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Rom 12:1-2).”
The Christian has discovered meaning for his existence. Previously he lived for himself and those whom he loved. Now he lives for Christ. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me (Gal 2:20).” In living for Christ, his love for family and friends does not lessen but finds greater meaning and fulfillment.
There is also no longer any fear of death. Death is not an unknown mystery; it is merely a gateway to greater glory. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Php 1:21).”
You see how Christianity runs against the grain of the world and is, in fact, a counter to the culture of worldliness? A Christian, more so than anyone, understands that without God, nothing ultimately matters. While the world continues to pursue that which eventually must perish and be forgotten, Christians pursue eternal life and glory in Christ.
So why does the world hardly see any difference between them and professed Christians? When the church begins to imitate the world in her values, thinking and ways of doing things, we have begun the downward spiral into worldliness. The church would have become just another worldly institution, perhaps more moral in its outlook, nonetheless she would be as carnal as a goat.
We can discover many reasons why Christians can be tempted to snuff out the light we are called to shine forth (cf. Mat 5:14-16). One surely must be a love for the world that still remains. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world (1Jn 2:15-16).”
Another common reason would be the fear of what others would think of us, or the fear of ridicule and of being ostracized. All of us want to love and be loved, don’t we? But at what costs? Certainly our Lord and His apostles were rejected by many but they remained true. At one point Peter did compromise but at Paul’s rebuke he repented (cf. Gal 2:11-14).
The Lord lists the ‘fearful’ or the cowardly among those who shall ‘have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone (Rev 21:8).’ Let us rather take the words of the Lord to heart. “And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him (Luke 12:4-5).”
Christians, embrace the difference between you and the world. It is a glorious difference that sets the saints of God apart from the world. Wear it as a badge of honour. It is a reminder of who you are in Christ and the promise of salvation that awaits you in heaven.