I know what it’s like to feel different, to not belong. I’m too religious for the world system and too worldly for the religious system. Have you ever felt that way?
Many young Christians are all too familiar with this dichotomy. But instead of living in both worlds simultaneously, they pick a side.
The problem with picking is that something gets ostracized. Christians who want to show compassion to hurting people yeet conventional church in the symbolic trash can to find spiritual significance out on the “streets”, where the rubber hits the road, so to speak. The other option is to get swept up with programs of weekly discipleship, to speak truth and show others how to live it out. The World versus the Church. What’s a Christian to do?
To pick a side means we are neglecting important growth opportunities. No matter the choice we make, we become imbalanced and unhealthy in our approach to Christ. Too much of any system (worldly, religious, or otherwise), we end up looking like that system and less like Jesus.
He loved the people in the Temple and out of the Temple, never belonging to either and always belonging to both. While it’s true he showed love in different ways to the people on the inside and outside, he burned with passion for everyone, the Jew and the Greek. He made no distinction.
Jesus was a big question mark, never acting the way others expected. The disciples thought he came to conquer Rome. Sinners thought he’d reject them like the other teachers of the law did. Pharisees thought he’d sit like a simp Jew and marvel at their lessons. Because he always did the unexpected thing, people didn’t quite know how to take him. Some received him, others threw shade.
As a godly outcast, Jesus wandered Israel without one hint of insecurity. He knew his purpose, was comfortable in his own skin, and wouldn’t let the manipulation of others deter him from obeying his Father.
When I feel self-conscious, I remind myself of Jesus’ example, living without fear of man’s opinions. I can watch anime, read fantasy, play video games, cook gourmet food, root for Houston sports teams, write fiction stories, and still love God. I can be a nerd and still love God.
At the same time, I don’t have to surround myself with people who play video games just to feel like I’m a part of something. Neither do I have to abandon the church just because there might be people who refuse to understand me.
I do my best to meet people where they’re at, and if people reciprocate that same type of love to me, then bonus. But I won’t live for others’ approval. It gives them too much power over me.
Like Jesus, I love people. It doesn’t matter if they’re dirty and exhausted, or cleaned up and put together. I don’t want to limit what God can do through me because I’m told I have to act a certain way or behave properly under certain rules and regulatory structures. This stance has been difficult, feeling different as an ordinary day in the life, but I'm not overwhelmed. I am a Christian and I am an outcast and I am learning to be okay with that.