When we are given a choice between agreeing with the majority or siding with the minority, we always gravitate towards ‘the many’ even though we may not really agree with them. There is always a temptation to follow the crowds regardless of whether it is right or wrong. Social conformity comes from our Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO). It hinders our ability to stand firm in what we believe is right.
As Gen-Z followers of God, we are at the tip of the spear, always being confronted with such choices daily. The media feeds us with trends and ideas that do not align with our biblical principles. The principle beliefs and values displayed in this generation’s movies, books, music and fashion conflict with the Scripture more than in any other generation before us. Meanwhile, society does nothing but to endorse and embrace them.
Maintaining our belief, purity and holiness in our Christian lives has never been harder.
Many people would make the justification that ‘If everyone else is doing it, that means it’s right’ because ‘how can so many people be wrong?’
As Christians, however, we need to be clear that the majorities’ rules do not and cannot change the truth. Our standards should be God’s Word. Most of the time we cannot go along with the majority. Instead, we have to go against them in order to do what is right and pleasing to God. That means we have to set ourselves apart from the crowd and live a counterculture life.
By definition, counterculture is ‘a culture whose values and norms of behavior differ substantially from those of mainstream society’. Simply said, if we choose to live counterculture, we choose to live a godly life as the minority. We choose the less travelled, often lonely road because this is the only path that leads to life in Christ (Matthew 7:13-14).
We are His chosen people. We are set apart from this world. We can’t accept what the world approves if they are contrary to God's will (see Colossians 2:8). Just because most of our friends are doing it doesn’t make it right. The popular profane things many teens do such as swearing, alcohol, pornography, drugs and pre-marital sex all go against the nature of our holy God. People of the world like to do those things to satisfy their own sinful and selfish desires. We can’t call ourselves followers of Jesus if we are unwilling to let go of the ways of this world.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.” -Romans 12:2
It is hard
Since around April this year, all my fellow teens in the ReGeneration-Z ministry have been reading a Christian book together. The book title is Love Riot, written by Sarah Barratt who is a teenage author, speaker, and leading editor for The Rebelution (a Christian youth organisation). In this book, Sarah talks about many of the struggles faced by Christian teens today and how we can overcome them and step out in faith.
Sarah’s discussion about the discomforts of living a countercultural life resonated well with my own experiences of rejecting the status quo and living a Godly life that is different to those around me. Sarah wrote, “Holding different beliefs in a liberal society, standing for truth when counterfeits are accepted, choosing love when everyone else is bowing to hate, and fighting for the truth of the gospel isn’t comfortable.” - Love Riot (pg 70)
So far, I consider myself blessed to have several close godly friends at school with whom I can openly talk about my faith. Moreover, those who are not Christians are accepting of my beliefs, and never do anything to make me feel uncomfortable about standing in the truth. Nonetheless, I still experience the awkwardness and discomfort of it all. Whether it was that time I was speechless when I was sitting among my classmates and teacher who were in a heated discussion about how Christians were homophobic and lived an unhappy life of do’s and don’ts, or at the other time when everyone else except for me was laughing at that crude joke that was clearly inappropriate and impure in the eyes of the Lord. Even during lockdown online learning, I was among the minority of people who did not wear a purple outfit or put on a purple screen background for the LGBT movement, ‘Wear it Purple Day’.
I am certain such situations echo in many of us. It is a reality that we must face when we proclaim Jesus as our ultimate truth in this generation that rejects the existence of an ‘absolute truth’. Many times we may be tempted to change sides, to feel the comfort of blending in with others, but we shouldn’t. On the contrary, we need to stand firm, being fully aware and prepared because once we choose to stand apart, we are likely to be rejected and denounced by others. We may lose a friend or two, and on the other extreme we may be prosecuted and lose our life like what has happened in the past and is currently happening to His people in countries like Afghanistan, North Korea and China (2 Timothy 3:12).
It is needed
One of our callings as Christians is to minister to the rest of the world. We cannot fulfill this calling if we choose to go with the flow. We should be the ones influencing others and bringing them to know God instead of being influenced by them to turn against God.
A 19th-century British evangelist called Rodney ‘Gipsy’ Smith said, “There are five Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the Christian. Most people will never read the first four.” This statement implies that the majority of people around us have never read the biblical Gospel or attended a single church service, but they ‘read’ us, the Christians. We are the ‘gospel’ that others will see. All of our words, actions and whole lives need to be holy so as to be a living testimony and authentic witness for Christ to everyone around us. We never know how God may work through our holy conducts to draw others closer to Him.
Never think that others won’t be able to ‘read’ our lives during lockdown. Yes, we don’t see each other as much, but during this time they literally read our lives from the messages we send, the posts we release on our social media and the comments we make online. All these things will remain there long enough for more people to read what Christians are like.
It is worth it
There’s a saying that ‘anything truly worthwhile does not come easy. If it did, it would not be all that worthwhile.’ Thus, no matter how hard or lonely this journey is, we should still persevere. In this uncertain world, God is certain and will remain faithful to His promise.
- Heavenly Reward
God promised us a great reward in heaven will be ours.
“Blessed are you when people hate you when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.” -Luke 6:22-23a
Do not worry about the world’s rejection, hold onto assurance of His promise as He is the judge and will have the last say (John 12:48). He is the one who has absolute control and power in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18).
- Happiness and Freedom
To people of the world, Christians may always seem to be living their lives under a giant rulebook of do’s and don’ts. They have the wrong perspective about holiness in life as they associate it with being fanatic, stiff, self-righteous, inflexible, unhappy and gloomy. Our friends may mock us, saying that we don’t have a sense of fun in life; about how we ‘only live once’ but choose to spend our precious days of youth in such a dreary way. They long for happiness and freedom, and most of them try to look for it in all the wrong things like video games, alcohol, pornography, drugs, free sex, and more. These things won’t bring them happiness or freedom, instead they get trapped deeper in their addictions.
On the contrary, holiness leads to happiness in life. Rev. Agus recently shared a quote from a puritan, Thomas Brooks, about his interesting metaphor between holiness and happiness. He wrote, “Holiness differs nothing from happiness but in name. Holiness is happiness in the bud, and happiness is holiness at the full.”
In short, we can’t find happiness in worldly things. Happiness will only bloom from holiness and the greatest joy that we can achieve in this life is in the joy of obeying God’s laws and living in holiness with Him.
When we live our life in sync with God, we will feel His love abundantly towards us as He will be with us to guide, protect, provide and love us (Amos 5:14).
Let me remind you that we are nothing without God. Everything we are is God’s grace. So do not ever think that you can live if it is not granted by God. Do not think that you can live your daily life by your own strength, not to mention going on to live a holy life against the current for God. So how can we press on and not waver? Three things were suggested by Sarah in her book:
Prayer is a very powerful thing for all those who are in Christ. When we pray, we have the most personal connection with God, we are able to encounter Him and speak to Him one on one. Prayer gives us strength, courage, and assurance to face the everyday challenges that may come with living for God.
Meditating on God’s Word regularly strengthens our knowledge and trust in the Lord, enabling us to avoid the influence from the mainstream. The bible is full of commandments, words of encouragement and directions to how God wants us to live our lives. Making time to read Scripture is a struggle, but it is a good routine to build up to constantly remind ourselves what is true and right (Psalm 1:1-6).
- Stepping Out in Faith
Trust God 100%. Step out of our comfort zones to respond to what He calls us to do in submission and obedience. Let go of all the fears we have and trust God to guide us in living out the plan He has for us.
Apart from those three above, I would like to add one more that I find very helpful for me.
- A Christian Community
Find a community of people who stand in the same truth, who can encourage and support you — people that can become your role model. One of the first places we can look for such a community is within the church congregation. For me, this includes my youth group leaders and friends, as well as my friends in the ministry. I find that our regular fellowships are a genuine and safe space in which I can share my struggles, learn and pray for each other and grow together spiritually. Even though my other friends at school may criticise me for standing apart, it is reassuring to know that I am not really alone. I have right behind me, a community of believers who will back me up and a mighty God who will never forsake me.
“Press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”.
- Philippians 3:14