When I think about living distinctively, my mind often wanders towards Leviticus. I picture the Israelites not wearing clothes made out of different cloths, not eating unclean food and observing the Sabbath – the Israelites were called to be a holy nation, God’s treasured possession (Exodus 19:6) set apart for God’s glory. The Israelites were a distinctive nation – they definitely stood out for their faith – and so should we! As Christians, we are called to this same holiness. We should stand out, not because our salvation depends on it, but because we are saved, and so we should want to live lives worthy of our salvation.
Often, however, we want to just blend in, not to stand out from the crowd, to go along with what everyone else is doing because it’s easier that way, right? The thing is, university presents us with countless daily decisions which eventually amount to the person that we are: the decision to have one more drink; the decision to watch what everyone else is watching; the decision to avoid that person sitting on their own at dinner. There are temptations to blend in everywhere you look as a Christian at university but we need to make a conscious decision to stick our head above the parapet and not let ourselves be conformed to the way of this world.
The familiar story of the Good Samaritan comes to mind. I’m sure that the Levite and the Priest thought they were good people who outwardly followed God’s law to the letter, but when the choice to help the man left for dead presented itself, they both walked on by. The Samaritan man was different. He didn’t follow the crowd, but he made a decision to stop and help, throwing away all social norms at the same time. We can all be like the Good Samaritan – not just those ‘super holy Christians’ who seem to have it all sorted and never mess up*, but each one of us because we can each make those daily decisions to take a stand and live distinctively.
As you start a new year at university, be mindful of these daily decisions to live distinctively which will inevitably present themselves. Before telling the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus tells those listening that to inherit eternal life we must love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Our love for God should saturate every aspect of our lives and should overflow out of everything we do. Our distinctive living should not be the result of dutiful obligation but rather a joyful outpouring of our love for God in response to his everlasting love for us.
*There’s no such thing!