You could always tell who the new recruits were. The newest stood out the most as they lacked uniforms identifying them as an Air Cadet, and the haircuts were a disgrace to the corps. I learned the hard way as a recruit that hair off the ears meant no hair on the ears. The more established recruits continued to stick out, even with uniforms. Train tracks would give them away, those horrible double creases from ironing gone wrong. Only recruits would dare show up like that. Only recruits would show up with dull boots. And only recruits would dare to be out of step with the rest, or worse yet, ‘bear’ march (as happens when one swings the wrong arm while stepping out with the wrong foot).
They were sent in. Sometimes perhaps by mothers who thought discipline would be good for their new-to-the-teen-years youth (or better yet a hair cut). Some of us were sent in by our passions and goals, mine being to become a pilot. But eventually we didn’t stick out anymore. Train tracks gave way to fine creases. Dull boots gave way to boots you could use as a mirror (and often would before a parade). Awkward drill routines gave way to polished manoeuvres. We settled in, we blended in, we ceased to stick out like sore thumbs.
This is, and isn’t what the Church is to be like. Jesus prayed “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18) We are sent in, sent in with a different perspective, with a different set of values, with a different set of goals. We should not be surprised as Christians to find ourselves terribly out of step with society as we truly are marching to the beat of a different drummer. Tragically, for many Christians individually, and dare I say it, entire churches, the train tracks give way to sharp creases, dull boots give way to shiny ones, awkward drill gives way polished routines. We get in step with everyone around us. The ‘sent in’ become the ‘settled in.’
What to do? Look for answered prayer! Specifically, look for the answer to Jesus’ prayer for the disciples in John 17: “They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified” (John 17:16-19). Being ‘sanctified‘ has the sense of being ‘holy’ or ‘set-apart’ for holy use. Just as the priests from the Old Testament were set-apart, easily recognized as different, and clearly called to do something special in service of God and community, so too is the Jesus follower set apart. Can one look at you and see an answer to Jesus’ prayer? Do they see someone who has been sent in, and set apart as different? Or perhaps they don’t see you at all. You’ve settled in, blending in with the crowd.
May people always thinks you are a wee bit weird. That just may be an answer to prayer!