What comes to mind when I mention the word “unfashionable”? How about “antiquated,” “obsolete,” “dated,” “has-been,” “old fashioned,” “outmoded,” “old school,” “square,” “passé.” And how about “totally-not-cool,” or maybe even “Just. Plain. Weird.” “Crazy.” “Behind the Times.” And notice that it always applies to folks (known as “them” as in an “us vs. them” mentality) who just don’t always “go-with-the-flow” or conform to how we think they should “be,” “act,” and/or “dress” according to our own set of mostly unwritten rules that we have carved in stone. And we find those unwritten rules everywhere including in every age and ethic group; in churches, hospitals, businesses, government, and in the military; at colleges and universities, graduate schools and seminaries; and in all other types of workplaces and every social setting in-between. (See article on “social identity theory” available at this link.)
The problem with all of these unwritten rules is that it makes two distinct groups of people out of the entire population–there is the “in” group (which is always “us”), and the “out” group (which is always “them”). And throwing stones and/or pointing fingers at the “out” group or a specific individual who just doesn’t conform to what we think they should “look like” or “be like” or “act like” or “do” becomes a very popular game with the “in” crowd. And we end up judging strangers we don’t even know–and we don’t want to get to know–by how we have judged them without mercy.
And we all do this . . . all of us. It is one of the major flaws of being human.
Tullian Tchividjian, senior pastor at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, has written a book titled, “Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different” (2009), in which he tackles the subject of being “unfashionable” from a Christian perspective. Here’s a brief description of the book found on Amazon.com:
“Unfashionable” explains what it means to be out of style in culture and aligned with God’s thoughts on community, lifestyle, work, money, worship, and church. Only by being properly unfashionable can we once again become a powerful renovating force for God in the world. After all, Jesus made a difference by being…different. So go ahead. Buck the system. Discover the power and the freedom of being unfashionable for God.
“Jesus made a difference by being . . . different.” Too often today there is too much conformity to the culture around us found in many of our own lifestyles and churches across the nation. For the most part, when we are not in church on Sunday (or whatever day our weekly church service is held) or in a Christian setting where we are around other Christians, we no longer look or act any differently from the rest of the culture. And why do we do that? Because it is human nature to want to “fit in.” Nobody really wants to be in the “them” group described above. Nobody. But we put other people in that group all the time.
A classic example of the way we tend to view our own Christianity is found on page 86 in Chapter 8 titled, “Where in the World are Christians?”, in the above mentioned book. Let’s read it:
Martin Luther was once approached by a man who enthusiastically announced that he’d recently become a Christian. Wanting desperately to serve the Lord, he asked Luther, “What should I do now?” as if to say, should he become a minister or perhaps a traveling evangelist?
Luther asked him, “What do you do now?”
“I’m a shoemaker.”
Much to the cobbler’s surprise, Luther replied, “Then make a good shoe and sell it at a fair price.”
I love that answer. Three paragraphs down from this statement (on pp. 86-87), Tchividjian writes the following:
I once heard Os Guinness speak about what such reform will require [e.g., regarding our motives and not specifically our vocations]. He said the main reason Christians aren’t making more of a difference in our world is not that they aren’t where they should be. There are, in other words, plenty of artists, lawyers, doctors, and business owners who are Christians. Rather, the main reason is that Christians aren’t who they should be right where they are.
Bingo . . . . In an earlier chapter (Chapter 3) titled, “Seduced by Cool,” Tchividjian opens it with a quote by Charles Spurgeon: “He who marries today’s fashion is tomorrow’s widow.” He goes on to state the following in the opening paragraphs of the chapter (p. 19):
According to Jesus, Christianity is not cool. There, I said it.
I’ll even go a step further: if you are infatuated with what’s fashionable in our society, then you will deem true Christianity irrelevant. That’s how idolatry works.
Think about it. Jesus said some pretty unfashionable stuff. “If you want to live, you must die. If you want to find your life, you must lose it.” He talked about self-sacrifice and bearing crosses and suffering and death and the dangers of riches. He talked about the need to lay down our lives for those who hate us and hurt us. He talked about serving instead of being served, about seeking last place and not first. He talked of gouging out our eyes and cutting off our hands if they cause us to sin.
He was making the profound point that daily Christian living means daily Christian dying–dying to our fascination with the sizzle of this world and living for something bigger, something thicker, something eternal. Jesus calls his people to live for what is timeless and not trendy, to take up the cross and follow him, even when it means going against social norms.
Of course, all of this is flat-out uncool in a world that idolizes whatever cultural craze is in style, whatever is fashionable.
“Daily Christian living means daily Christian dying.” We don’t do that well most of the time. We want the same stuff everybody else has out there plus the benefits that come from being Christian, and Jesus clearly said that it doesn’t work that way. But we try to make it work that way most of the time. Often, we want to be “rock star” Christians in a cool society and not servants who are willing to “count the cost” of following after Jesus. We just want to be cool like everybody else. And we don’t want to be one of “them.” However, Jesus was in the “them” group. Let’s read Philipians 2:1-17 written by the Apostle Paul regarding how we are to imitate Jesus Christ’s humility:
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.
We are called to a life of love, a life of sacrifice, and a life of being servants, and not a life of being served and demanding our oun way or demeaning folks who “aren’t like us.” And that means all of those folks we put into the “them” category are the very folks we need to be relating to, praying for, and serving. After all, we are of the “them” group, too–just like all those folks we think don’t “fashionably” fit within their own cultures (and watch out for many “church” cultures, too). Jesus Christ is our example to follow. After all, he went to the cross on our behalf.
What are we willing to do for others (besides judge them)? And that means “all” others. That means the neighbor we don’t like, the folks we judge harshly that we usually don’t even know (except through gossip), and what about our enemies?
What about our enemies?
“For God so loved the world”–not the things in the world but the people of the world—“that he gave his one and only Son [Jesus Christ], that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16-18). That includes those we gossip about, those we judge, and our enemies, too.
Are we more concerned with being “fashionable” or being real–with following a crowd or following Jesus? We make that choice every single day, whether we realize it or not.
We should be living our lives . . .
As if the whole world is watching . . .
Because it is . . . .
YouTube Video: “Lead Me to the Cross” sung by Northland Church Worship Team: