Fitting in While Standing Out

Here are two very popular verses that Christians often talk about when it comes to living as believers in a world where many do not believe.

Paul encourages us to engage in the culture for the sake of the gospel as he says:

“I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”  1 Corinthians 9:22b-23

I don’t know about you, but I really enjoy finding common ground and I like  finding ways to fit in and be accepted.  I like the idea that the gospel is often better received when we can present it in a way that is culturally relevant. I love that it IS relevant to every person and culture! I really enjoy the practical applications of this verse that allow me to learn and engage in a culture and try to become more like those around me for the sake of the gospel.

…But there are also these very important words from Jesus in his prayer for believers in John 17 and other verses like it that speak to another aspect of how we are to live as believers in this world:

“I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.  My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” – John 17:14-16

This one is much harder for me. Some people find it easy to be bold, are ok with standing out, and are less afraid of other people’s opinions, but I really like fitting in and the idea of being disapproved of or even hated for my beliefs is something that honestly is very difficult for me. God has spoken clearly in His word though, and when we commit ourselves to following Christ, we are accepting the fact that we will be hated for it in one way or another. Of course we don’t aim to be hated, but we should never compromise truth or living in the way that Christ has laid out, merely for the sake of fitting in.

As you live your life for the sake of the gospel, how do these two truths affect you? Do you struggle at all to balance fitting in while standing out? In what ways have you been able to “become all things” in the culture in which you live? Have you experienced being “hated by the world” for your faith in Christ?

(Post by: Ashley)


2 Responses to “Fitting in While Standing Out”

  1. 1 Kara Coe November 7, 2011 at 1:17 am

    Thanks for this post! I think it is such a relevant issue. I feel that for me, it is easier to ‘stick out’ and be hated while on the field, then at home. Personally, I’m not risking very much. People already think I’m weird, and expect me to be different. And I don’t have too much invested in the relationship. But in the States, with my own family, it’s very hard! I am way too conciliatory, and not confrontational at all. Which has its pluses. I am afraid of burning bridges to the gospel, probably too much so.

    The one interesting thing since our kids started school in Russia, is that I am more cautious with relationships with the parents and teachers. Our oldest son’s first year, we determined to just show people that we weren’t anyone to be scared of. People here are so scared of all ‘sektanti’ and for them it is WEIRD to have a foreigner in the class. But we did a few kids’ parties-Christmas, Easter, birthdays, and then did a week long ‘English camp’. Those things helped us get to know some parents. During my son’s second year, I invited all the moms (at the Women’s Day concert!) to come to a weekly gathering. I felt really weird passing out the invitations, especially to the moms (and grandmas) that I didn’t know at all. It was the most blatant ‘Christian’ thing I’ve done, and I was really scared. And it turned out that only the moms I knew already came. My fear is that my son will suffer because I’ve been too bold in sharing. I think we need wisdom to know how to share in a way that doesn’t push people away, especially when our kids’ school relationships could suffer. However, our son speaks with the kids at school about God, in his own way, so in that way, he himself is choosing to enter the ‘persecution’.

    I can’t wait to hear what others write! Thanks again for raising the topic.

  2. 2 Ashley L November 7, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    I love your thoughts, Kara, and all of the things you’ve been able to do to reach out in your community! I hear you about worrying about how our kids will be influenced in school. That is just now becoming an issue for us. I also love your comment about needing wisdom to know ways to be bold without pushing people away. I am going to hold onto that for a future Tuesday Topic or other opportunity for people to share their thoughts!

    For me, much of the ministry work that I’ve done in the past hasn’t necessarily been as much with those in the sphere of my own personal daily life (since we work with students), so it was easier to be bold in my vocation. If people disapproved of me, it felt a bit easier because it wasn’t people that I saw every day. I was also able to easily fit into the population since I was a recent graduate and looked like a student and was familiar with student issues. Now that I’m doing ministry mostly in my own community with my peers (since I’m mostly home with the kids and can’t really go to campus), it is harder because I feel like the risk is much greater to me personally! (Can you tell that i need to work on my “fear of man issues?) If i talk with someone and they disapprove, I still have to see them throughout the week! Though it can be more intimidating to speak the truth of the gospel boldly, one thing that I love is that the relationships are ongoing. I get to share continually, both with words and by example, so usually it isn’t a “one and only chance” sort of situation. This feels more natural to me. The cross-cultural aspect makes the “become all things” issue more of a challenge than when we worked in the US, though I find that mothers all across the world deal with most of the same issues, so that really makes it easy to connect.

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