I hear this phrase often. “You are to look different than the world.” Or, “I question those ‘believers’ who look like the world.” Or, “That church is too worldly.” And when I hear these phrases, I wonder what they really mean. I understand that Scripture over and again that we have been “called out” or “set apart,” but does that mean the same thing as “looking different than the world?”
If I have 30 sheep and I call out and set apart 15 sheep to go feed in another pasture. They still look like sheep. They’re just in another pasture.
I think about Jesus. When He was here, walking the earth looking like we do and being tempted just as we have been tempted, he didn’t sit in a corner balled up and weeping over the ‘sinners.’ He didn’t hide Himself from all temptation so that He would sin. He went straight out to where the parties were and hung out with those people. He went to where the broken were and He hung out with those people. He was called a drunkard and a glutton because He hung out with those people. I would argue that by immediate appearances He didn’t look much different (but that was to church people).
To the people in whom Jesus took genuine interest, they saw a difference. I don’t think He was high and mighty while He walked among them. I think that they looked at Him and saw hope. They probably said, “Jesus, you are teaching some of the same things that those teachers of the law but it makes sense to us, and really it is deeper than what they are saying. But, You have love and Your words are filled with hope (even though I don’t completely get it).
What’s been mulling over in my mind is that the only way we should really look ‘different’ is that we offer genuine love and hope. The words that we say and the life that we live should overflow with these two aspects of God’s character.
Now don’t take that too far. I’m not suggesting that we be out there partaking in craziness. We have to remember that Jesus didn’t lower His character when He was around those who were godless, they raised their character to His. He wasn’t shaped by the culture He was in, He shaped the culture He was in.
I don’t really know where all this is going yet for me completely, but what is solid in me is that when the church people looked at Jesus, when the religious people looked at the very Son of God and saw Him in His some of His normal elements, He didn’t “look different than the world.” But to those who were in the world looking back the other way, the seekers who needed hope, the seekers who needed something they could connect with, the seeking people that needed someone to come meet them where they were, He looked completely different.