We are all different
The times in my life when I have been most effective is when I have been myself. When I have tried to be someone else I have been unreal, frustrated, half-hearted and not very successful.
There are many reasons why we are not always true to who we are. In our religious groupings there tends to be a set way of living and behaving that is often unconsciously presented as the gold standard for how we should be as Christians. These groups are very genuine in seeking to model and teach a way of following God. I have been in such groupings all of my life, and they are good groups. The problem is that each group has had a different emphasis which usually I have had difficulty catching up. It can be difficult to feel as though we properly belong in a group if our practices are different than this norm.
The earliest group I was in was very strong on Bible knowledge and study, so I focused on that. The next group was really strong on the Holy Spirit so for some years I tried to be part of this. Then there have been groups that are very strong on evangelism, and again, I have wanted to be part of this.
When Jesus chose His disciples, they were really very different as people and in their approach to following Him (Matthew 4:18-22). There are right principles to following Jesus that we should all practice but how they apply to individuals can look very different.
- Peter was the decisive do something kind of a guy who often was quick to act but not necessarily correct in what he did (Luke 22:34)1 33 He said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death!”.
- John was a pastoral and caring individual, and Jesus entrusted the care of His mother to him (John 19:26, 27)2 26 Therefore when Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing there, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour, the disciple took her to his own home.
- Nathaniel was a man of great personal integrity that Jesus commended for his honesty (John 1:47)3 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and said about him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!”.
- Andrew was someone who wanted to lead others to Jesus (John 1:40, 41)4 40 One of the two who heard John and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother, Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah!” (which is, being interpreted, Christ)..
- Simon was really zealous in his approach to discipleship (Matthew 10:4)5 4 Simon the Zealot;.
- Thomas was the sort of disciple who wanted to see things for himself and did not necessarily take at face value what other people said to him (John 20:24)6 24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, wasn’t with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”.
- Levi was very sociable and hospitable as well as good in organising events and relating to people who were not religious (Mark 2:14, 15)7 14 As he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he arose and followed him. 15 He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners sat down with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many, and they followed him..
It is essential that we realise that God has made each one of us unique and we can only fulfil His calling on our lives by being who we are. This means we have to learn how to be part of the groupings we are in and, without compromising the principles we have in common, maintain our personal application of these principles.
Some groups and individuals have difficulty accepting there is more than one way to apply God’s principles for living. We can find it difficult therefore to be true to who we are because we can be judged to be not following godly principles because our practice looks different.
Personally, I do not like loud noises, modern music, artificial lighting or large groups of people. I am more reflective, quiet, wanting to talk with individuals in depth but not small talk and I couldn’t sell anything to save my life. Many of the qualities I do not have are the currently favoured approaches of a number of our religious groupings. I cannot let this stop me from being who I am in God nor disrupt my friendship towards such gatherings.
Aesop told a story of a miller, his son and a donkey. The miller and his son were travelling into town. The miller rode on the donkey, and his son walked beside. As they went along a group of people passed by them criticising the miller for riding the donkey and not letting his son do this. The miller got off the donkey and changed places with his son. They passed another group who criticised the son for riding the donkey and not letting his father do this. The miller and his son decided to ride the donkey together. They met a third group of people who criticised them for being so cruel as to ride the donkey together. In desperation, the miller and his son got off the donkey and picked it up carrying it toward the town. As they crossed a river on a bridge, they all stumbled, fell into the water and drowned. One of the lessons of this story is to be true to who we are.
If Jesus’ disciples were so different, we should not be critical of people who genuinely love and follow God but who do things differently to us. We should not let the voiced or unvoiced criticism of others stop or slow us down when we offer ourselves to God.
Can you give an example of a principle from the Bible that can look different when applied to some people and contexts?
Have you ever tried to be like someone else but in doing so was not true to who you are?
How well did that work for you?