I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
When I survey my childhood and adolescence, I can see many themes emerge. One of these themes is what I thought was my greatest hindrance in life, which was to always stand out. At least I felt as if I always stood out as the one person in the room who was not quite like the others. This led to years of attempts to try to mold myself to whatever social groups would let me join them. Whether it was school, work, or family, I wanted to fit in. Ultimately, that is something that made my transition to Christianity really tough. I now was being challenged to separate myself from the world I had wanted so badly to fit into, to intentionally live differently.
The transition from Saul of Tarsus to the apostle Paul was incredible. He was a zealous Jew who would not have thought himself to be part of the world, but that was where he resided without Christ. Then, as he made his change and began to bring others to the Lord, he was forced to go against the grain of the culture for which he had practically been a poster child. The opposition he faced was not merely about his faith in the messianic claims of Christ. He also faced opposition for his denial of Jewish customs such as circumcision. In the eyes of his fellow Jews, he was inviting the unworthy Gentiles into their world without even purifying or qualifying them according to tradition.
Paul spoke of his zeal at murdering Christians for believing in the Lord. He was a man led by faith, and he truly believed that he was on the right track. Once he awoke to the truth, he then would have to face the same opposition he previously perpetrated. I wonder whether Paul really understood how distinct he would have to be from those around him in order to serve the Lord. I also wonder whether he had seen the writing on the wall regarding his fate as a result of his own prior persecution of Christians. He stood out then, and he stands out now, but that is not a bad thing at all. Father, help us to be more distinct from the world daily and to be comfortable being different if that means pleasing You.