Whether it’s a name etched in cement or a boot print on the moon, we desire to make our mark—something that says, I was here. And if we’re lucky, not even death will prevent our name from continuing beyond our physicality.
This being set apart most noticeably begins in middle school with the cool kids’ table. I had no idea who Aristotle was, but I believed his principle of non-contradiction in that you could not be both unpopular and memorable at the same time.
So, the cool kids’ table is where I wanted to sit—to ensure I wasn’t forgotten (which I’m sure you can identify with, too)—except there isn’t an application process or a golden ticket to find. This microcosm of the outside world valuing wealth, power, influence and beauty honored those who came before by meticulously scrutinizing any new candidate eligible to fill the coveted (and rarely open) seat. And yet a kid who for far too long wore his pants to high made it—and I’m not proud as to how I did.
You see, a girl popular because of her power, meaning look at her funny and you’re “dead meat,” took a liking to me. Though I didn’t find her attractive, she was the loophole I needed to access the cool kids’ table—but also not get beat up, so kind of a win-win. We “went out” long enough for me to secure my seat post break-up—long enough to officially fit in—with the world.
However, the problem with fitting in with the world is that it’s hard to stand out. We’re called to be “the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden,” like a lamp to be “placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house” living differently “for all to see, so that everyone will praise [our] heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:14-16 NLT).
So why don’t we live differently? We know God’s plan for us isn’t about our happiness, but our holiness—being set apart from the world—yet here we ignore Aristotle’s principle by believing we can love both the world and God simultaneously. And in doing so we fail to stand out (for God), like a lamp placed under a basket. Don’t miss this: God calls you His masterpiece, created new in Christ with a purpose too important to be hidden.
If applied, the following three ideas will help you do more than just leave your mark on Earth, but alter the Kingdom for eternity and bring glory to God—for which there is no greater purpose.
1. Recognize there is a fine line between identifying with the world and being identified by the world.
When we attach our identity to anything other than Christ we risk alienating the very people we are called to love and serve. Whether it’s the kind of vehicle driven or the amount of education achieved, etc., it’s easy to unwittingly project that if you don’t have what I have, you are on the outside, which is the exact opposite message of Christianity.
Christ came to invite those on the outside (which includes you and me) to be on the inside where everyone is welcome—even the cool kids. I never want my lifestyle to make me unapproachable; I might identify with others based on similar interests, but I never want those interests to become my identity.
2. Accept that being accepted by Christ comes at the expense of being accepted by the world.
“If the world hates you, remember that it hated Me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you” (John 15:18-19 NLT).
I might step on some toes here, but pause for a moment and ask yourself, do you look any different from the world (?)—search yourself against the Scriptures.
Keep in mind that somewhere around A.D. 60-120 King Nero had Christians set on fire as a source of illumination and also had them ravaged to death by dogs for entertainment. While many in the Western culture won’t encounter such atrocities—actual persecution, not #FirstWorldPains—those living for Christ will experience push-back for their beliefs. However, be encouraged knowing that you have access to the Holy Spirit’s power when encountering opposition from a world that released Barabbas and crucified Christ.
3. Leave the results to God.
Too often I succumb to the need for instant gratification.
It’s temping to want to sow the seed, water the soil, then watch impatiently for the stem to break the surface.
To put that into a modern context: I’ll post a picture on Instagram then immediately check to see if it got any likes. (I know I’m not alone in this.)
However, living for immediate results leads to burn out. Paul likens faith to a race, and if I’ve learned anything from Aesop it’s that “slow and steady wins the race.” Plus, leaving the results up to God not only eliminates feelings of inadequacy (since we often try to use results to bolster our own credibility, acceptance and worth from the world), but it also communicates to God that we trust Him and believe He deserves the glory.
I’m not perfect; like you, I too wrestle with the need to fit in from time to time. However, if we maintain our identity in Christ, accept that there will be opposition, and trust God with the outcome, I believe our desire to sit at the cool kids’ table diminishes as we become restless to reach a lost and hurting world for Christ, one that is dark and in need of the light we’ve been given.
You cannot stand out by fitting in, so abandon conformity with this world and leave your mark on eternity by asking God where you are to be different, then get to writing in the wet cement He’s laid before you.