By David Faust
If you live in a northern climate as I do, winter means shoveling snow and navigating icy roads, so it’s easy to forget that snowflakes are a marvel of creation. Those billions of individual snowflakes piling up on your sidewalk all have unique star-like patterns, which under a microscope look like Christmas decorations.
People are unique, too. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made”—“woven together” by the fingers of God (Psalm 139:13-15); and that’s a fitting way to describe it because DNA is woven together in a spiral shape like a twisted ladder. Our genes vary by only about 0.025 percent across all humans, but those tiny differences shape who we are.
Sin has distorted God’s image in us, but when our covenant relationship with the Creator is restored through Christ, he calls us to be different—“to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).
The Israelites were supposed to be a holy people, distinct from others who lived around them. No work on the Sabbath day. No graven images. No ham sandwiches, clam bakes, or oyster dinners. God wanted more than surface obedience, though. He said, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts” (Deuteronomy 6:6). Sadly, the Israelites often disobeyed God’s rules—or they obeyed, but their hearts weren’t in it.
A messy situation arose in Ezra 9 and 10 because some leaders of the Israelites had disobeyed God’s rule against intermarriage with pagan tribes. To deal with the problem, Ezra gathered a group of faithful leaders “who trembled at the words of the God of Israel” (Ezra 9:4). If Ezra and his friends were shocked by Israel’s unfaithfulness, imagine how astonished they would be in 2023. How many people today tremble at the words of God? Do we who wear the name Christian demonstrate a distinctive love for God and others? Do our lifestyles reflect God’s holiness?
What Makes You Distinct?
According to Jesus, genuine holiness can’t be measured by outward appearances. It’s a matter of the heart.
When we follow Christ, our identity changes. The world no longer squeezes us into its mold. We are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). Political affiliations and social categories don’t define us. We belong to God’s family where “there is no Gentile or Jew . . . slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Colossians 3:11).
When we follow Christ, our priorities change. His will becomes our guide—not the shifting sands of what we feel or prefer. We no longer cling to money, power, position, and status. We are free to hold our possessions loosely and serve others freely.
When we follow Christ, our destiny changes. Resurrection hope allows us to relax about the future, believing that “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
In many ways, Christians are just like everyone else. But when we follow Jesus, we embrace a unique challenge: “Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn’t know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness” (1 Peter 1:14-15, The Message).
Personal Challenge: How does following Jesus impact your daily life? This week, how will God’s kingdom priorities shape your attitude, decisions, spending, and interactions with others?