I caught myself talking the other day and, to my horror, I realized that I sounded like one of my middle school students. Spending time day in and day out with thirteen and fourteen-year-olds is somehow rubbing off on me. I'm also losing my Scottish accent little by little and acquiring more of an American accent. This isn't a bad thing, but losing my accent makes me feel like I'm losing part of my identity. I've been trying very hard to maintain my accent, but it's been a struggle.
Likewise, as Christians, we spend most of our day with friends and classmates. We need to constantly examine our speech and conduct so that we do not adopt worldly attributes and lose our Christian identity. Here are a few tips on maintaining our Christian identity at school or at work.
Know Our Roots
We all have an identity. We know who our parents are, what our nationality is, and where we come from. Some people, to better understand their lineage, delve even deeper into their roots and study the genealogy of their family.
Knowing our lineage helps us understand who we are today. As Christians, it is vital that we know our roots and spiritual lineage. So what is our spiritual lineage?
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Pet 2:9)
Our spiritual lineage stems from being "a chosen generation." We have obtained mercy, we have been justified and purified, and we are now the temple of God (1 Pet 1:12; Gal 4:7; 1 Cor 3:16, 6:19-20). Our spiritual lineage was established when our Lord Jesus Christ turned us from "darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God" so that we may "receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in [Him]" (Acts 26:18).
Our spiritual lineage makes us Christians today. It is important that we know what our spiritual lineage stands for and that we live up to our identity as Christians.
Nehemiah 7 records how God asked Nehemiah to register by family those "who came back from the captivity" (Neh 7:6). Among those who returned were three families of priests who were unable to identify "their father's house nor their lineage" (Neh 7:61). As a result, "they were excluded from the priesthood as defiled" (Neh 7:64).
Not knowing our heritage may cost us our spiritual priesthood, as it did these three priestly families in the Old Testament.
When I finished high school, I was very excited because I was about to embark on the next stage of lifeÂ¡Xuniversity. To my dismay, my exam results did not permit me to go to the university of my choice, so I took a "gap year" and spent that time working and studying.
In retrospect, I realize that it was God's will that I did not go to university that year, although it took me a while to grasp this. The extra year allowed me to understand my relationship with God better and pinpoint the state of my faith. At eighteen, my faith was still immature and I wasn't ready to handle life away from home. God knew better, and He kept me at home another year to establish my faith and to clearly identify my spiritual roots. Without that year, it would have been extremely difficult for me to uphold my faith at university.
Keep Ourselves Pure
Nowadays drugs, sex, and alcohol seem to be the norms of student life and of society in general. Many people use these addictions to drown their sorrow, seek happiness, or escape the emptiness of their lives. They have lost their identity, not knowing who they are and what they are doing.
As Christians, our beliefs and values often run contrary to society's norms. But we cannot allow the diminishing values of society to make us compromise our faith. Instead we need to firmly fix our eyes on Jesus and keep ourselves from evil.
I will set nothing wicked before my eyes;
I hate the work of those who fall away;
It shall not cling to me.
A perverse heart shall depart from me;
I will not know wickedness. (Ps 101:3-4)
While Joseph was in Egypt, he held firm to his beliefs and stayed true to his spiritual lineage. Although he was tempted by Potiphar's wife, he did not give in to physical gratification. He knew that the temporary satisfaction would eventually lead to his spiritual demise.
Daniel also lived in a foreign land filled with delicacies and all things pleasing to the eye, but he did not conform to their indulgences. Instead, he determined to keep himself pure and refused to defile himself with the king's food.
But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's delicacies, not with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. (Dan 1:8)
Daniel dared to be different, to stand out. In order to keep ourselves pure, we too need to have this daring attitudeÂ¡Xto stand out, to be different, and to uphold God's principles.
There are some youths I know who have mixed in with the wrong crowd. If I did not know them personally, I would not have known that they were Christians. They have adopted the worldly ways of their friendsÂ¡Xthey smoke, dye their hair, and date around. Many of them do this because all their friends are doing it, and they don't want to be different.
It is vitally important that we choose our friends wisely and that we do not end up in the wrong crowd. "The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray" (Prov 12:26). Our friends could be the weight that tips our balance in the right or wrong direction.
Be a Positive Influence
I notice that my colleagues never curse in front of me, and when they do, they apologize for doing so. Knowing that I am a Christian and that I do not curse has somehow rubbed off on them. They respect my beliefs and principles, and they do their best to act likewise when I am around. I'm sure that many other Christians have experienced similar situations.
We need to uphold our identity in a way that glorifies the Heavenly Father. We should never allow worldly identities to rub off on us. Rather, we should allow our Christian identity to be a positive influence on the people around us. Jesus teaches us, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Mt 5:16).
To ensure that we are not compromising our Christian identity and instead shining the light of Christ, we need to constantly examine ourselves. Do wholesome words come out of our mouth? Do we use our mouth to bless or to curse? Does our conduct reflect Christ? Do we dress modestly or provocatively? James says,
Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh. Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. (Jas 3: 10-13)
There was a sister whose spiritual live was revived through the positive influence of church brothers and sisters. This sister had a very busy social life when she was in high school. Wild parties, loud music, bad company, and a flashy dress sense ruled her life. She was caught up in a life where her true identity in Christ was slowly withering away.
When this sister entered university, she began to change. She started to attend church services more frequently and established close friendships with church youths. They reflected Christ in them, which slowly rubbed off on her. This sister now truly lives for Christ and continues to bear much fruit for Him. During her university years, she stood her ground as a true Christian soldier. This ultimately allowed her to hold on to her faith and keep her spiritual lineage.
Another sister used to stand at the door after lectures to see if anyone was interested in studying the Bible with her. Most people weren't interested, since they were rushing off to a party or some other social event. But this sister was persistent. She had determined to share the gospel with others, and she stood firm in her determination. She knew her identity, understood her beliefs, appreciated the value of her life.
Jesus said, " Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves." (Lk 10:3) We are indeed lamb among wolves. We need to be as pure as doves and wise as serpents. We need to show that we belong to Christ.
Do not conform to the world. Instead, dare to be different.
In order to cling to our Christian identity, we might need to break with the norm and even make some sacrifices. It definitely isn't easy upholding our beliefs in a crooked world. But since we know our heritage, it's important that we uphold our spiritual lineage and stand our ground. "It's not always easy to fight the good fight, but it is always good, and it is always right".
May the Lord continue to guard our hearts and minds and guide us all in our endeavors to cling to Him, and to leave behind a beautiful Christian legacy.