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BEING DIFFERENT

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We live in a society where most people do not question authority for a deed before participating, but simply follow the path of popularity, by principles of nature, we can prove that no two persons are exactly the same. The DNA, fingerprints, palm veins, face recognition, palm print, hand geometry, iris recognition, retina, odour/scent, gait and voice are some of the means by which individuals can be identified with modern technology. We live in a world filled with lots of vices and immorality. Technology has revolutionized the way people sin. Lies are told now more than ever. Deception has never been as much in human history as in our present age. In spite of all advancement in technology, are we truly happy and comfortable in this generation? 1sam 8:1; 3-5 "And it came to pass, when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel" (verse 3)." And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre and took bribes, and perverted judgement" (verse 4) "Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah" (verse 5) "And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations".
After the salvation of the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt, they sojourned for hundreds of years in the leadership of judges appointed by God; until the recorded time when they demanded a king. For some reason the children of Israel were in need of justice - a good thing - but they made a wrong demand. This is because their intent was wrong as well as the implication of their request, they rejected God (verse 7)" And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them". Even after they had been warned by God through Samuel of the consequences of their decision. (Verse 10-18) "1Sm  8:10 And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king.  8:11 And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.  8:12 And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots.  8:13 And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers.  8:14 And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.  8:15 And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants.  8:16 And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work.  8:17 He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.  8:18 And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day". They reaffirmed their decision to have a king (verse 19) "Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us;". In the reaffirmation, they projected their erroneous motive: "that (they) also may be like all the nations; and that (their) king may judge (them), and go out before (them), and fight (their) battles" (verse 20).
Christians today encounter lots of situations in which they are saddled with the need to make decisions that may have some effect on their morality. Some do forget to heed the appeal made by apostle Paul (Romoms 12:1-2) "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  12:2 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." Thus, many Christians fit in to what the worldly people do for reasons which they present as justifiable. Like the children of Israel did when they demanded a kind, Christians today who fit in ignore the warnings of God on the consequences of their actions.
CONTEXT OF BEING DIFFERENT
The phrase "Being Different" is ambiguous; hence it is necessary to define the context implied here. Since the commands of God are (in some cases) at variance with societal norms, there's need to follow the directive of the superior power (God); to gain and retain His approval. In simple terms, we shall use the phrase in a positive sense. The concept of "Being Different" will be discussed in light of the Christian living and secularity.
THE CONCEPT OF VALUES AND PERSONALITY
To understand the idea of "Being Different ", let us discuss values and personality. Values are integral part of every human society. They are beliefs that regulate the lifestyle of people in a community, their interaction with each other and with people from other communities. Values are developed over time and are transferred from one generation to another. Thus, values form the basis of culture. For example, in some parts of Africa, people do not eat snails - not because it is harmful or unhealthy, but because of some other reason related to their belief. Besides the collective values upheld by members of a community, each individual has values - written or unwritten, identified or unidentified. Most people do not identify their values; some others realise they have values, yet do not write them down. Values are built as a person grows. They are closely connected with a person's beliefs or right or wrong. Such beliefs may be consistent with those of the larger society in which one lives. However no two person have exactly the same values; hence, values build personality. Inspite of being unique for each individual, values are dynamic.
TO FIT IN
In this context, we refer to fitting-in in terms of compromise of one's values. Such needs arise from the desire to be like others, to gain the approval of men, be feared or respected.
TO BE LIKE OTHERS
Some people want something or get involved in one thing or the other, just because they want to be like someone else. Each individual is unique. Even identical twins, which tend to stay together most of the time, will never have the same experiences throughout their lifetime. Being different individuals, their judgement of the same event will not likely harmonize at all times.
As a philosopher - Bertrand Russel rightly said, "All human activity is prompted by desire". The desire to be like someone else arises from the benefit an individual perceives another has. A greedy man who compares himself with another man, wishing to be the one in such position would likely rise to do anything to gain wealth. The greedy house wife of a man with low income, who decides to compare the quality of the food she eats or her dressing with another woman (of the elite class), will likely agree to do whatever is required of her to fulfil her desire.
TO GAIN APPROVAL OF MEN
Association is one of the inert desires of man. God created all things in twos and after creating man He acknowledged that: "it is not good that the man should be alone" (Gen. 2:18). Generally, a person who is appreciated by the people around him feels more confident than another person who is not appreciated. People tend to go extra miles to gain the approval of men. Let us consider a few instances in the Bible.
Saul - the first king lsrael had, was rejected by God because he feared man more than God and sought for the approval of his army. When rebuked by Samuel, he replied:in Samuel  15:24 "And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice." As king, Saul had greater authority than the people. They would not kill him, rather he would have lost the trust of some of his soldiers (who could be traced and replaced). Therefore, in analysing the event, it is obvious that he sought for the approval of men.
In John  12:42 "Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue:  12:43 For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God." Furthermore, in the days of the early Christian, Herod the king fed on the approval he got from the Jews by killing Christians. First, he killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to take Peter also to kill, but the latter was saved by God. Acts 12:2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.  12:3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)  12:4 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.  12:5 Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.  12:6 And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.  12:7 And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands."
Some people today hold on to certain erroneous and misleading doctrines because they do not want to be put out of a gathering they have belonged for several years. Hence even when the truth is preached to them, they are unable to sever the bond between themselves and the people of whom they get approval. In modern fashion and lifestyle, young people dress to impress. They model their outfits to comply with latest (indecent) fashion, so that when they meet their friends, words of admiration will rain on them.
TO BE FEARED
The need to be feared finds its place greatly in our society today than in any other generation, because societal values (based on good morals) are rapidly degrading. Wealth and fame is greatly celebrated than ever before. Cases in the law court between the rich and poor now seems to have an obvious direction of judgment. In most cases, the jury seems reach a verdict in favour of the rich, unless God intervenes. Similarly, law enforcement agents now victimize the poor and innocent as they are directed by their rich "friends".
Therefore, people are becoming more desperate to be rich than ever (since people fear the rich). Other groups of persons who decide to fit in to be feared are members of secret societies. Apart from the wealth some of them have, they possess spiritual and physical powers capable of maiming individuals as they wish. Cultists parade the streets with high shoulders and have their clothes packed with weapons of Violence. In some parts of the country, they can easily be spotted on the streets based on their gait and grooming. They do so, so that people will avoid their paths. In reality, such individuals do not experience growth, but stagnation. The wealth they may acquire (by evil means) is doomed to terminate in no distant time. (Proverbs 28:22) "He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him."
TO BE RESPECTED
There are some classes of people in the society who are not only feared but respected. There are two classes of such persons, which we will consider at this point: PROFESSIONALS and POLITICIANS. Some people force themselves into professions they do not truly like but want to belong there because of how highly such people are esteemed or respected. Our society has degraded so badly that unqualified professionals flood the labour market. When they reach a level of responsibility where they are expected to apply the training they had in the higher institution, they perform poorly.
Arguably, politicians are one of the most respected individuals in every nation. They possess the powers to make laws and implement laws. In a society like ours, they even have influence over interpretation of the law. Thus, they possess remarkable amount of power; with the money and power they possess, they recruit hungry and indecisive youth into thuggery. In society gatherings they are treated as VIPs and accorded great respect. Demand for such respect or praises can make a person compromise by fitting in.
BIBLICAL INSTANCES OF PEOPLE WHO WERE DIFFERENT
Noah - Genesis 6:8
Shedrach, Meshack and Abednego - (Dan 3:1-down)
Lot - (Gen. 19:1-30)
Daniel - Dan. 6:7-27
Joshua and Caleb - Num. 14:1-10
David - 2Sam. 17:20-51
Jonathan - 1Sam. 13:1-7, 14:1-17
Ruth - Ruth 1:8-18
THE NEED TO BE DIFFERENT

  1. To be approved of and blameless before God.
  2. Deception is on the rise.
  3. The path of least resistance leads to destruction.

CONCEPT/CLICHES TO BEWARE OF

  1. Everyone does it.
  2. It does not really matter.
  3. We were born to see it so.
  4. It's who you know!
  5. What if you lose?
  6.  It's impossible!

Grace given, not based on adjudged effort.
THE COST OF BEING DIFFERENT

  1. Circumspectly - Eph. 5:15-17.
  2. Self-denial - Luke 9:23-26.
  3. Guts.
  4. Endurance - 2Tim 3:12-14
  5. Spiritual stability - Eph. 4:14, Gal. 2:11-14

Conclusion:
God has no problems with people who choose not to serve Him. However, people who are called by His name are accountable to Him. They are expected to light up the world and make it have some good taste. (Matt. 5:13-16). Instead of conforming to the world, they are required to be transformed by the renewing of their minds by the word of God. (ROM 12:2). It is necessary to remember the following points.

  1. Learn to take ownership.
  2. It is important for every individual to understand who he or she is and establish personal values.
  3. There is need to disassociate oneself and avoid every situation where there is likelihood of fitting in at the expense of morality (2Cor. 6:14-18).
  4. God expects us to be different for His name's sake.
  5. There is great earthly and heavenly reward for Being Different.

Kubiat E. Akpan

 

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