Trending: Righteous Rebels (What it Means to be Set Apart for God)
I distinctly remember the first time I wore skinny jeans. I was a sophomore in high school, and my youth group was doing a fall outreach, dividing the four different grades into teams for an ongoing competition. We were the “Sophomore Skaterz" and when I learned this, I begrudgingly traded my maroon Hollister pullover for a new studded belt…and skinny jeans.
Having grown up in an era of bell-bottoms or at least, boot-legs, I thought skinny jeans were the worst thing in the world. I remember wearing a stank face when I purchased them at PacSun with my mom, and being embarrassed to pull them on for youth group a few days later. I knew they were starting to become “in,” but sincerely could not see the appeal, and swore to myself they’d die a lonely death in the deepest part of my dresser after the night was over.
Today, I’m a leader in that same youth group, we are currently in the middle of that same month-long fall outreach, and the team I’m a part of with my junior girls is none other than the “Slackers” (which, apparently means we dress up as gothic skaters). Today, all I own are skinny jeans and the thought of wearing bell-bottoms makes me ever-so-slightly cringe, even though the dramatic wide-leg variety are starting to appear on legs of those who have enough energy to be on top of the latest trends. The irony is not lost on me.
Though I haven’t yet personally bought into bell-bottoms, not to mention pantsuits or the pointy, super long nails that seem to be trending today, I’ve learned enough to take a cue from The Bieb’s and “Never Say Never.” Because it has happened before, I know it’s likely that as I start to see these styles on others, they may slowly start to grow on me, and all of sudden I’ll be like “Ew, skinny jeans”—circa 2007 Kaci. I mean, J. Biebs himself should be proof that not all things you swear off stay sworn off forever. Purpose, anyone?
Here’s my point: we’re influenced by what we imbibe and it happens subtly, so we’re a lot more susceptible than we think.
For Fall Classic—the youth group outreach I mentioned earlier—we are currently doing a series on the biblical book of Daniel, inspired by a series Reality SF recently completed called A Creative Minority. It. Is SO good.
Any good Sunday school kid would know that Daniel’s highlights include surviving being thrown both into a lion’s den, and a fiery furnace. Those little nuggets totally would have made it into his Instagram bio. But there’s so much more to his story. We’re learning that Daniel is a case study for being a righteous rebel. An Israelite who found himself living in the midst of the Babylonian exile, Daniel found himself fighting to retain his religious and ethnic identity in a new culture that wanted him to assimilate their ways. In resolving not to worship Babylonian gods, and refusing Babylonian food in favor of vegetables (hence, what we call the “Daniel Fast”), Daniel was setting himself apart so that he might be a beacon of light, pointing others to the God of Israel.
During one of the sermons a quote was shared suggesting we might not always be so successful at this today:
Whoa. Are we, as Christians, being more influenced by our culture than we are influencing it?
At first, I didn’t think this was an issue for me—I didn’t see myself as being molded by culture. But then I started to think…
I remember the days when use of the word “crap” perturbed me, and how using it for the first time myself felt like a huge deal. Nowadays, does that word even phase me? No—and neither do a few others.
I remember being shocked by content in movies that nowadays, seems mild.
I remember when I would have been appalled by clothing choices I’m now completely desensitized to as I flip through fashion magazines or social media, admiring them even.
I can’t tell you when any of those changes happened, it was simply the gradual absorption of what was around me that slowly transformed what was radical into something acceptable, then what was acceptable into something normal. It’s just like the skinny jeans—I can’t tell you the exact moment I started liking them, but I was surrounded by them, and somewhere along the line it just sort-of...happened.
If we aren’t careful not to absorb all that’s around us, we’ll begin to lose our distinctiveness and subsequently, we’ll miss opportunities to let others see Jesus in us.
Daniel allowed himself to learn the literature and language of the Babylonians, along with other elements of their culture, but he drew the line at food. That’s not to say food would have been more wrong than the other things, but if he partook in everything then what set him apart would have been nothing—and food was his nonnegotiable.
As Reality SF Pastor Dave Lomas puts it,
I’ve heard it said before that not everything permissible is beneficial. All of this has me asking myself, are there things in my life that I tell myself are “okay,” but doing nothing to help my cause in being set apart for God so that others might see another way, and walk in the life it offers?
Maybe it’s giving in to a bit of gossip here, or letting a rogue word slip there because it feels liberating. Maybe it’s singing along to a song because everyone else seems to be enjoying it, all the while letting its lyrics fill my mind with vile.
Are any of those things really worth sacrificing the integrity of my identity as a set-apart Christ-follower?
No—and that’s nonnegotiable.
In order to resist Babylonian influence, three times a day Daniel would open his window, facing Jerusalem, and pray to God. Jerusalem was the place he had come from, and the promised future kingdom of his people.
What was necessary for Daniel to maintain his distinct identity as one of God’s people was a continual reorienting of his heart and mind towards the Kingdom that was coming—and the same is true for you and me.
We need to set our minds on eternity, and ask ourselves how our actions are impacting it. We need to be grounded in God’s Word, grounded in having spent time with Him, because if we don’t have those as our compass, we just might get lost.
Thankfully, the God of the universe loves us and He is faithful to guide us, faithful to convict us, and faithful to extend to us unrelenting grace when we fail. Let’s allow that grace to guide us into the people He’s called us to be.
Instead of following the trends, let’s set them.
P.S. I don't mean to be clothes-minded, but fall is definitely the best season. Not all trends are bad, right? 😉 Who knows if they're actually trending, but below are some seasonal looks I'm loving.
Fall was made for comfy sweaters to cozy up in.
I’d love to hear your thoughts—what some of your nonnegotiables are, or simply what YOUR favorite fall look this year is—let me know in the comments! 😊