The thought I shared on Saturday night at Peterborough Salvation Army with the Youth Band…
The theme we’ve chosen to focus our thoughts on for this weekend is “Dare to be different”. I’m sure as soon as I said that phrase, many of you will have started singing the well known Army song, “I dare to be different” in your heads. While many of you will know the song, or would be able to put in the alto or bass part, or hum the euphonium part from the tune book, I’m wondering how well you know the words and what the song is actually talking about.
The main concept of the song is daring to be different, by living like Christ. So what I want to briefly look at tonight is what that actually means, and what it looks like for us today.
So first of all, what does it mean to ‘dare to be different’? Being different means to be unlike another, to be distinct, or separate. Now, we live in a world where we place a huge importance on fitting in. On being the same as other people. For young people in particular, having the right clothes, the right technology, the right interests, beliefs and opinions, is crucial in order to fit in. We want to blend in with the crowd, not be the odd one out. My background is in psychology, and there’s a theory called Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which ranks social belonging as the 3rd most fundamental human need, only behind physical and safety needs.
So if belonging and fitting in is so important to us, why would we dare – why would or should we take the risk – of being different?
The main and simplest explanation I’ve been able to come up with is that God wants us to be different. I’ve come across lots of instances in the bible where God asks us, or tells us, to act, behave, and think differently to the world around us. “Don’t be shaped by this world, instead be changed by a new way of thinking” is what Romans 12 says. In Ephesians 4, Pauls says “With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness as they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. But, that isn’t what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your old way of life. Instead let the spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God – truly righteous and holy.”
It’s clear God wants us to turn away from the sin and negative ways the world so often turns to. So we choose to be different, we choose to take that risk, in order to be the kind of people God made us to be, and that he wants us to be.
And we do this by being like Jesus. Simple!! Or… In theory it is. We dare to be different by living like Christ…but how do we actually do this? Is it enough to turn up to church each week, hear the sermon and sing the songs, or to open our bible every now and then, or go to cell group each month? I don’t think it is.
James 2:14 reads “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?”
The line of the song doesn’t say “I dare to be different by ‘reading’ about Christ, or by hearing about him, but by living like him. So finally, what does living like Christ actually look like for us today?
Jesus was pretty perfect – he said and did what was right, he stuck to his (and God’s) morals, he helped the poor, he healed the sick, he was kind to everyone, and he spoke to the people no one else would. But in reality, living up to those standards as the flawed humans that we are can be really difficult.
However, what we can do is try our best to aspire to showing and living out those Christ-like qualities.
Matt spoke last night about patience as being one of Christ’s key qualities. He was endlessly patient with the people he interacted with, and he patiently waits for us to choose to follow him. We can follow his example, by exercising patience with others and ourselves in our efforts to improve.
Jesus was also extremely giving and generous – his ministry was filled with service as he shared his time, talents, and love with others. This is again something we can emulate in our own lives – opening our eyes and hearts to the needs of others, and helping in whatever ways we can – whether that be monetary, or through encouragement and support, or by simply giving our time to listen.
There are so many more positive traits Christ showed throughout his life – he was forgiving, humble, wise, faithful – all things we can really quite easily demonstrate in our own lives. One of the clearest to see things about Jesus was the kindness and love he showed to people, and this is something we can definitely emulate and live out. As a Christian, kindness should be a distinguishing feature of your life. Even little acts of kindness are so powerful, and they can change the world around you. Ephesians 4:32 says “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
So daring to be different and living like Christ really doesn’t need to be that complicated. Our faith should be shown in how we live. Our actions should be evidence that we’ve been changed, that we know and love God.
There’s another song called “live like that” which sums up the point of daring to be different, and living like Christ, that I’m going to leave as a challenge and something for us to perhaps aspire to
“I want to live like that,
And give it all I have,
So that everything I say and do
Points to you…”