If you've read this article before December 7, 2010, please read this note.
While some teenagers want desperately to fit in, many teenagers strive to be different, although not always in a good way. I saw a cartoon once that featured two stereotypical rebellious teenagers. They both had crazy-colored hair, baggy clothing, and studs all over their faces. They were first encountering each other on the first day of school. As they looked upon each other, one of them said grimly, "It's getting harder and harder to look different anymore." Even though I'm a teen who revels in starting my own trends and not following the crowd, that cartoon sure gave me a laugh.
Being different doesn't always involve the way you dress and look. You don't have to have purple hair and a nose ring to be different. You don't even have to have your own unique style of clothing to be different. People can consider you to be very different, merely by the way you act and the words you say.
If you're a teenager and you're a follower of Christ, then you stand out from most young people. You're different.
It's hard to be a Christian in today's world, especially if you're in between the ages of twelve and twenty. When you're young, you're expected to rebel and do illegal things. Most adults would say it's natural... the advantage of being young. You're expected to experiment with sex and drugs. You're expected to lose your virginity, dirty the air with a few choice cuss words when you get angry, and crash your car a few times because you were texting while driving. You're expected to make low grades, sleep in until three o'clock in the afternoon, and yell at your parents when they ask you to make your bed.
When you're a teen, you're definitely not expected to be a Christian, at least not someone who acts like it. No way. Why settle down and do what's right when you're young? You have so many years left before you need to follow God, right? Absolutely not. But if you're like me, you know that already.
If you're a teenager and you're a Christian, then you've probably faced baffled questions from fellow teens, just like I have. "Do you ever have fun? Do you think you're better than me? Why can't you loosen up and have some fun? What makes you so different?" Some questions are harder to answer than others.
It's easy to think to yourself, "I'm different because I'm a Christian," but a lot of people say that. In fact, three out of four young people would easily say, "Yes, I'm a Christian," but have absolutely no idea what they're talking about and would not even be able to coherently answer the most basic of questions about their religion. Check out this article by CNN, titled "More Teens Becoming 'Fake' Christians." It sure gives a lot to think about.
According to the article, "committed Christian teens share four traits: They have a personal story about God they can share, a deep connection to a faith community, a sense of purpose and a sense of hope about their future." Is this something you have?
As a devoted follower of Christ, what puts you in a different light from other teenagers, 'Christian' or not, is what you don't do and what you do.
What You Don't Do
If you're different from other teens, then you abstain from what many teens enjoy. Sex, drugs, cussing, and underage drinking, for example. Adults might think of you as a model teen because you don't do these things. A lot of fellow teens might look at you strangely because you don't go to the drinking parties and you don't sleep around with your boyfriend. You're different because of what you don't do.
What You Do
If you're different from other teens, then you strive to make your actions and words honorable and admirable. You work hard to be "excellent" in your school work, because you know that's what God wants. You use your words to honor both God and others. You step out in your community with a will to be an example of God's crazy, awesome love. You know that you're a city on a hill. You're different because of what you do.
Both of these are important factors in being different from other teenagers. Obviously, you are going to fail sometimes because you are human, but if you strive -truly strive, not just pretend to strive- at both of these things, then you're different. You're a city on a hill and a light in the darkness. People will look at you like you're an alien from another planet.
According to the Bible, you're not of this world.
Before you stop reading this and turn off the computer with a smile on your face, reveling in the fact that "Hooray, I'm different!", please remember something important. Being different isn't what your goal should be. Go ahead and cover your car with "Jesus Freak" bumper stickers. Blast that Lecrae from your stereo. Wear the t-shirts that say witty comments like "Arrest Me: I Prayed at School Today." But remember: your goal isn't to make people whisper and stare. Your goal isn't to stand out from the crowd. Your goal isn't to be unique.
Your goal should be to become an example for Jesus Christ and that in itself will make you unique. If you follow God's will without shame or reservation, you will stand out from this world like a flood in the Sahara Desert. It's not the material things that matter. It's the way you act, the things you say, and Who you follow.
We can be different, you and I. We're different because of Jesus Christ, and that is something we must not forget. Amen?