God calls all Christians to be holy. To be holy or sanctified literally means to be "set apart." Almighty God, in saving us through faith in Jesus Christ, has called us out from the world and set us apart to belong exclusively to him. And our God is jealous over his people: Christians are called to be different from non-Christians.
A century ago, American evangelical Christians were concerned about liberalizing tendencies within the churches. Christians increasingly were seen as not very different from non-Christians in what they believed and in how they acted. Therefore several "fundamentals" of the faith were affirmed by evangelicals—teachings such as the deity of Christ, the authority and inspiration of the Bible and the need for personal rebirth by the Holy Spirit in order to go to heaven—and conservative Christians began to be called "fundamentalists."
Much could be (rightly) said about what was wrong with the fundamentalists. They soon based their distinctiveness on externals rather than on the changed heart God had given them. They defined themselves more and more by what they were against rather than what (and Whom) they were for. Their hatred of sin too often spilled over into a seeming hatred of people, and they were known more for their anger than their love. But there was at least one very right thing about the fundamentalists: they realized that following Jesus meant that they were to be holy, set apart, different from the world.
Where does this "set apartness" need to be encouraged today among students? Here are my thoughts. They are neither exhaustive nor in order of priority. May God raise up individuals and local chapters where courage, not fear, is the defining character quality. May we dare to be counter-cultural out of loyalty to our Lord.
"They'll know we are Christians by our love," was the refrain to a popular song among Christians in the late sixties. Non-Christians may (indeed, will) hate us, but the hatred should be because darkness hates the light—not because we come across as arrogant, condescending or angry. The world clamors for its rights and claims "victim" status, but Christians should stand apart by our radical yielding of rights and willingness to suffer for what is right. We must be quick to forgive. We must stop all lying, all backbiting, all cheap slashing with our tongues. We must go out of our way in doing good to others. And we must put to death all worldly competition, making it our aim to take joy in others' successes.
Whether extravert or introvert, every Christian should have the reputation for being someone who cares for people (which includes peacemaking and confrontation). Do you stand out in the radical ways you treat other students? Whether your peers agree or disagree with your theology, would they find it impossible to deny that you always valued relationships over grades, computers or music?
Radical approaches to money
There is just no getting around it: Jesus said more about money than he did about any other single topic. Money easily becomes an idol (anything in which we place our security and trust instead of God). Being radical here does not necessarily mean intentional poverty, but it does mean an unmistakably loose grip on our possessions. Radical Christians will be generous and sacrificial. (C. S. Lewis gave us a rule of thumb for giving: give until it hurts—not because we're sadists but because all false allegiances need to be broken of their power.) We must be marked by our frugality and self-restraint, knowing from daily experience how to say no to the consumerist impulse our culture foists on us. The cross needs to come to bear on each of our lifestyles—it cannot be mere business-as-usual.
Whenever people walk into our dorm room, or see the clothes we wear or watch how we spend our discretionary money, they should see something different about our priorities. They should quickly notice that materialism just doesn't seem to have much of a pull on us.
Radical work and rest
Work can become an idol or a mere means for getting money. Again, Christians should be radically different. In your work as a student, do you study to the glory of God, bringing your God-given talents and creativity to bear on the academic subjects themselves? We must aim for quality work without succumbing to workaholic idolatry. Every office, lab, business, and home should somehow look different because of the salt and light that radical Christians bring with them to their work.
And we must be different in the way we value rest. "Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work" (Exodus 20:9-10). Let's take the idea of Sabbath seriously. Let's be ruthless about insisting that one day a week will be different, set aside in a unique way for worship, "re-creation" and rest. Christians have historically named Sunday the Lord's Day. Would you dare not to schedule any meetings or do any homework on Sundays? Break the routine once a week! Maybe this means switching off the television, turning off the phone, choosing to ignore the world's entertainments, or even fasting. We should each decide before the Lord how we will spend Sundays.
Radically different in our sexual ethics
The Christian teaching on sex is quite simple and to the point: no sexual activity between anyone, ever, other than husband and wife. Premarital, extramarital and homosexual sex is wrong and disobedient to God. In an age of ever-increasing sexual promiscuity and casualness over all things sex-related, we Christians ought to stand out like beacons in our purity, avoiding even the appearance of evil here. Let them call us prudes. Let them wag their heads in derision when they hear of our pre-marital virginity or our decisions to remain celibate. Let them say we are old-fashioned, backward, out of step. The goal, of course, is not to be awkward and uncomfortable with our bodies. We should enjoy the opposite sex, give appropriate hugs and even revel in our God-given physicality, but always with the crystal-clear, mutual agreement that sexual activity is a gift to be honored and protected for marriage.
We also should be radical in noting and eschewing the rising emphasis upon androgyny in our culture today. The label "sexism" is quickly applied to almost any differentiation one would ever encourage between men and women. Our differences as males and females should be joyfully appreciated. In a world that has lost the wonder of sexuality, the church needs to value the beautiful, God-created diversity of men and women as equal in worth and yet different.
Let's keep our eyes fixed firmly on the Lord Jesus Christ. Let's strive to be like him in every way we can. He died for us, and he bought us to belong exclusively to him. Let's respond to his great love by radically following him, however different it will make us look in others' eyes.
(article from Student Leadership Journal)