- I grew up in the deep South but couldn’t care less about hunting or fishing.
- I’m only marginally interested in most major sports (although I enjoy the summer and winter olympics — and every two years seems to meet my need).
- I’m one of those who watches the glitz and glamour of professional sports and entertainment and silently wonders how much difference could be made if all that money were spent on sharing the gospel and meeting the needs of those less fortunate.
- I’m more verbal and more emotional than most guys (which totally messes up the application of all those books on marriage and relationships — you know, the ones whose authors manage to polarize the non-conformists by consistently stereotyping).
- I’m not a big movie person (mainly because I have a strong dislike for many of the big-name stars and the values they endorse). And I rarely watch R-rated movies, which definitely limits my options.
- I like to read — but only those things that are real-life and deemed relevant to my personal growth (i.e., the Bible, biographies, leadership books). No sci-fi for me, thank you very much.
I could go on, but you probably get the picture. Some of those things are merely personal preferences; others involve the power of choice. As a kid growing up, I often believed what others said about me — basically that I was ‘weird,’ ‘boring,’ and ‘out-of-step.’ However, in my years since high school I’ve come to appreciate the things that set me apart from the majority. I guess you could say that I’m more ‘comfortable in my own skin’ than I’ve ever been.
During his earthly ministry, Jesus said that his followers should be in the world and not of it. That doesn’t mean that there’s anything inherently wrong with any of the things I mentioned above, but it does mean that when the world looks at believers, they should see something different. Very different. And chances are pretty good that those differences may well find you misunderstood and even hated. Listen to these words of Christ:
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” – John 15:18-20a, NIV
Scripture is filled with examples of people who went against the current. I think of Noah, who everyone probably thought was a nut-case. He never had the opportunity to tell them, ‘I told you so,’ because they had washed away by then. I think of Joseph, who in today’s culture would likely have encouraged Mary to abort her unborn baby — a decision that would today draw cheers and applause from irresponsible men all over the world. And I think of Stephen who boldly stood his ground and stuck to his beliefs even though it would cost him his life.
Salmon swim upstream in the ocean waters, sometimes hundreds of miles, to return to the rivers or streams where they were born. They go with a definite purpose — to spawn. As believers we must remember that swimming upstream in this world requires us to stay focused on our purpose — to be salt and light in the world, sharing the Good News, and spiritually reproducing by making new disciples of Christ.
As you go through your week, I encourage you to take time to evaluate your life. Are you running with the crowd and blending right in, or are you swimming against the current of this world and seeking to point others in the right direction?
It has long been said that ministry and leadership can be very lonely, but I’d rather be lonely and with God than loved by the world and living without Him.
Yes, there is a definite upside to swimming upstream:
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” – Matt. 7:13-14, NIV
Whenever you feel truly alone, take a look around and you’ll find others like you. And there is strength in numbers.
IT’S YOUR TURN!
If you swim upstream in this life, in what ways do you find yourself feeling lonely, isolated, or misunderstood? How does swimming upstream impact your relationship with God? With others?