I’m living in a culture that embraces individuality – what you like trumps convention, what you think defines you is your identity, what you’re known for sums up who you really are. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. God did, in fact, give me a unique personality that He intends me to use for Him; He doesn’t expect me to fit neatly into a manmade box. Besides, I can’t necessarily control what everyone else thinks of me. Only God can see my heart, so as long as I know I’m doing OK, I can forget what anybody else thinks, right?
And God snorts and says, “That’s nice, dear. Now would you get out of the way and let others see My Son through you?”
Recently I read a great article from a teenager who discovered that one of his interests had become an obsession. “I realized that I was being defined by my nerdy fandoms more than my relationship with Christ. I remembered that when I was watching the evil images on that television screen, Christ was watching them with me. I realized that non-believers would see my life as a reflection of science fiction rather than a reflection of God’s light.”
When people look upon me – whether by conversation, social media, my manner of dress, my vocabulary, my behavior – what am I reflecting?
– An interest or personal philosophy?
– A political party or faction?
– Even… shallow Christianity? Your coworkers can see a sanitized, modestly-dressed person who eschews cursing and evil conversation, and still not see Christ. Too often we spend our downtime at work talking about a “clean” TV show and never breathe a word of Jesus.
Your personality is not a mirror that reflects you, but a lens cut on a special angle through which the world can see Jesus Christ.
God is not supposed to be the undercurrent of my life, the background music to my story. He IS the subject of this story! If “embracing my individuality” draws attention to me rather than to Him, I’ve made myself an idol. I have to slow down and put my interests and activities through a “glory filter” – does it glorify Him or me?
- Do I put more energy into maintaining my interests than my walk with God? I can relate to James’s struggle. After discovering a show that I really liked (a rare enough occurrence), I found myself constantly talking about it. I got friends and family to watch the show with me. My Pinterest was flooded with references to the show… and I spent more time and energy thinking on a TV show than I did on the Lord, on His Word, and on modeling my life on the Bible. “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.” (Romans 12:2) The devil will use the cleanest, most innocent things to turn your focus away from God; you can stay as holy and sheltered as you want, as long as he can make you ineffective for the Lord.
- What non-verbal message do I relay by my appearance and behavior? God may judge my heart, but my outward appearance largely determines how much mileage He can get out of it. Showy clothes go with showy behavior, but frumpy or over-casual clothes go with apathetic behavior. There is nothing either showy or casual about standing fast for Christ. It is purposeful, it is premeditated, and it is above reproach. Does my appearance reflect that? The other half of this equation is the tough one – is my behavior saying something my mouth isn’t? Am I doing what is easy or “good enough”, regardless of the effect I have on my sphere of influence? “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” (I Thessalonians 4:22); “In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.” (Titus 2:7-8)
- Would I be willing to remove X from my life if the Lord laid it upon my heart? Stop now and think of something you enjoy that isn’t directly spiritual, and ask whether you’d give it up for God. Whether it’s a person, a hobby, a “personality quirk”, whatever!, if the automatic answer is “No, that’s silly, I don’t need to do that”, it’s a good sign you’ve made it an idol. If the answer is “Um, OK, yeah, I could part with that if He wanted me to,” you’ve got it in its proper place. “That ye may approve things that are excellent: that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.” (Philippians 1:10) What if… X in your life confuses or offends someone in your sphere of influence? Is your reaction, “Well, I can dial back on that for his/her sake,” or, “Pssh, they need to grow up a little/chill out/get over it”? “Let not then your good be evil spoken of… It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.” (Romans 14:16, 21)
A practical example: I love Christmas with a passion. I don’t have to choose between celebrating the sacred or the secular; I completely overdose on both. Years ago I had a roommate who sincerely felt that Santa Claus was the devil’s attempt to take attention away from the birth of Christ. Personally, I felt that as long as Jesus’s birthday was foremost, Santa Claus was more than welcome to show up to the party. Who was right? (No, don’t answer that in the comments, please.) The answer is, it doesn’t matter. If St. Nick offended her, I could do without the reindeer decorations in our room and avoid all the cheesy radio Christmas songs when we were together. “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.” (Hebrews 10:24)
Your interests, your strengths, your passions, the things that make you so uniquely YOU, are not given to you so you can just “be yourself”. Your personality is not a mirror that reflects you, but a lens cut on a special angle through which the world can see Jesus Christ. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) If you find that God might be cramping your style, check first to see if you are cramping His.