If you want to be a difference maker, you’ve got to be okay with being set apart in your lifestyle, or, as the Bible puts it, “Be holy.”
How can Christians make a difference in a bleak time? In my last article on this topic (“3 Ways to Make a Difference in Your City”), we looked at how we can 1) go to where people are, 2) find ways to be good neighbors, and 3) use our churches as spiritual hospitals.
In this article, we are going to turn our lens inward and discuss our own conduct. While we cannot save anyone from their sins, our sins are able to influence people to stumble and get cynical about the faith. This is especially true of church leaders.
“Our sins are able to influence people to stumble and get cynical about the faith.”
This propensity of reckless leaders to wreck other people’s faith is why Paul warned not to let new believers become leaders in the church. It does not take a very deep Google dive to see that there is another scandal in a church during any given week. If you are a pastor or any kind of leader in a church, God has entrusted you with a flock. Every day needs to be met with humility in regard to this calling. When we do not take our faith seriously, we need to realize that it is tough to get upset when the culture also does not take us seriously.
But as the one who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, “Be holy, because I am holy.” If you appeal to the Father who judges impartially according to each one’s work, you are to conduct yourselves in reverence during your time living as strangers. (1 Peter 1:15-17, CBS)
“As the one who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct.”
This call from Peter is timely in this cultural moment. Our culture obsesses about trying to fulfill unquenchable desires. It’s important to note that these verses don’t just call us to be holy in a vague sense, but to be holy “in all your conduct.” Western culture is trending farther and farther away from morality in some crucial areas. A culture tricked into trying to find lasting fulfillment in momentary thrills needs to see that we have joy in God’s path. They need to see holiness.
This isn’t the first time (nor will it be the last time) that Christians will live in a society such as this. In the first centuries of the church’s existence, corruption and immorality ran throughout layers of the Roman Empire, and in some cases sins were institutionalized as just the commonsense way to live. Even when persecuted for its set-apartness (its holiness), Christianity not only survived but spread, and it happened because many early Christians chose to be holy, living for God’s glory instead of societal applause.
“Christianity not only survived but spread, and it happened because many early Christians chose to be holy, living for God’s glory instead of societal applause.”
Holiness is a high bar; there is no doubt about that. It cannot be achieved by willpower; it is only through the work of Jesus and his Holy Spirit that holiness can be achieved. However, decisions we make contribute to the Holy Spirit’s work of growing holiness in us.
So, if you want to be a difference maker in a bleak time, it’s worth asking, how do you conduct yourself? The following is just one example, but it might be helpful in giving a picture of how differentness can give us opportunities to point to Jesus. I’ve worked quite a few blue-collar jobs, and foul language is the popular vocabulary. It never failed that, after someone would unleash a string of foul language, they would look at me and apologize. I always found this reaction humorous, because it’s not like I would give them a dirty look or guilt anybody into an apology. I’ve always tried to be approachable. But there was a sense in which they just knew that foul language wasn’t something I used, and it often gave me a chance to talk about why I do not curse. And it’s not because I’m naturally a good person; if I’m being honest, any goodness in me leads me to point to Christ.
“If you are a Christian, your life should be different from those around you. If it’s not, you need to ask yourself what light you’re hiding from others.”
If you are a Christian, your life should be different from those around you. If it’s not, you need to ask yourself what light you’re hiding from others around you that could be pointing people to God:
“Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
Holy means “to be set apart,” and that is what God wants us to be. The reason he wants us set part is twofold.
Two Reasons to Be Holy
First, there’s the freedom that comes with living a holy life. Trust me, you won’t miss all the negative consequences on sin. All of those horrible emotions that follow sinful choices are not there. Holiness frees you up to truly serve Jesus and follow God’s will for your life, unencumbered by “the sin that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:1).
The second is that people will look to you and ask what is different about you. The difference between your life and your neighbor’s is Jesus. So, when the questions come (e.g., “Why don’t you…like everybody else?”), that is an opportunity to show that person the glory of the risen Christ.
“We live set apart for him because he is worthy and because people need him.”
Holy living is not a list of do’s and don’ts that make you feel superior to others. Rather, it’s a life lived as worship to a holy God. We live set apart for him because he is worthy and because people need him. Your life story cannot save anyone, but your life story can be an arrow pointing to Jesus, the One who can.