This past week I was having a conversation with a friend who is a member of a denominational church. She mentioned to me that she wanted to come visit us and that she had told her “pastor” that she was going to visit us. Her “pastor” asked who we were and my friend responded, “the church of Christ.” The “pastor” said, “Are you sure you want to do that? Those folks are different!”
There are many members of the church today who would react negatively to that analysis. They would say, “Oh, we’re no different than any of the denominations around us.” To these, it is an embarrassment that they are considered to be different by the denominations. These would want to change the church into just another denomination, to legitimize and acquire instrumental music, to destroy the autonomy of the local congregation, to call the preacher, “pastor,” to get rid of the name “church of Christ,” etc. until the church is no longer distinctive from those around us. However, that would not be the way of God or Christ.
We read in the scriptures that God has always demanding of his people that they be different. In Deuteronomy 14:2, Moses tells the children of Israel that they are different. He says, “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.” The word “holy” means to be set apart, different. God wanted the children of Israel to be a “peculiar people.” The new English Standard Version translates this phrase “treasured possession.” Certainly something that is a treasured possession is different from everything else one has and is set apart.
In the New Testament as well, Peter quotes from this passage in Deuteronomy and applies it toward “Spiritual Israel” – Christians. Peter writes, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). God wants us, as Christians, to be different. Paul writes to Titus these words regarding Jesus, “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). Jesus died so that we could be different. We read in 2 Corinthians 6:17-18 “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” In order to be God’s children, the church must be separate, distinct, unique, different.
So, are we different? Yes, we are, and I am glad that we are. Today we live in a time when denominations around us are conforming to the world. We hear of denominations who condone abortion, homosexuality, fornication, and adultery. The church of Christ does not condone such activities because God’s word condemns these things. Instead of conforming to the way that the world would have the church, the church ought to be demanding of individuals that their lives be transformed through repentance and renewal of mind. In Romans 12:2 we read, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
Are we different? Yes, we are. We are different because we have been transformed by Christ to be a people who are holy, the children of God, separate from that which is sinful; different from the way the world would mold religion in its own image today. It is our differences from everyone else that define who we are as Christians. We should never be embarrassed of that! The world and the denominations may think us “strange” (1 Peter 4:4) but I wouldn’t have it any other way. One day, Jesus will return and all will bow and God will be glorified, not because of our similarities with the world, but because of our differences (Matthew 25:34).