What Makes You Different?
by Stephanie Olson, Set Me Free Ministries Co-founder
Merry Christmas everyone! On this Christmas Eve, I would love us all to reflect on what makes us different.
I was talking to someone the other day whom I love very much. Someone who isn’t quite sure what he believes about God. Someone who thinks Jesus’ teachings are good but isn’t sure if He’s the Son of God. Someone who likes Jesus but–and here’s the harsh truth–isn’t a big fan of those who claim to follow Jesus.
We hear things like that often, don’t we? Christians are hypocrites. I like Jesus; it’s His people I can’t stand. Well, I wanted to share a bit about this friend’s experience and a personal story of my own.
The conversations began when my friend (I’ll call him Theo) saw a post on Facebook regarding an article that addressed taking the Christ out of Christmas (or something similar). He read through the posts and was appalled when hundreds of Christians were spewing hateful and despicable statements about the subject. What saddened Theo even more was that out of those hundreds of posts only two Christians commented that the words and statements used by the other so-called Christians were not even remotely Christ-like and didn’t reflect who Jesus truly is.
As I talked to Theo about this lamentable incident, I was reminded of a similar situation in which I was personally involved. Years ago I was in management at a well-known department store. Among my many responsibilities was managing the team of pianists the store used to create ambiance for the shoppers. During the Christmas season, they, of course, played Christmas music; however, one of the rules of the store was they could only play secular Christmas music.
Now, this was my job, and let me tell you, the secular Christmas music hill was not a hill I would even consider dying on. My thought was, this is a department store in which background music is played, no words, no real witness (other than in my personal actions), and I had no problem doing my job and complying with the request.
And then, this policy was brought to the attention of a journalist, and my name was the key name mentioned in the article. When the article came out, all hell (and I mean that literally) broke loose. Satan used this opportunity to create absolute havoc in the Christian community that was public to the local world.
The story was in other newspaper articles, on the radio, on television, and what I went through was awful. When the story broke, I spent (and I do not exaggerate) three days in my office fielding one phone call after another for eight to ten straight hours. But, here’s the kicker, every phone call from a “Christian” was full of hate and venom. Sometimes people would just spew hate and hang up. Others would yell at me, let me try to explain, and then yell at me some more. I even had someone call who had seen me lead worship and told me I had turned my back on Christ. I only had one woman who “turned nice” after I spoke. The only kind people who called me during those three horrible days were atheists and Jews.
I left work every day in tears. And when I walked away from that experience, the only thing that I could think of was: Thank you God that I am a Christian, because if I weren’t, I would be grateful; and if I were on the edge of coming to You, I would have jumped to the other side.
So, what is the moral of this story? During this Christmas season, be a good witness. There may be times when you are frustrated that someone is calling a Christmas tree a Holiday tree, but don’t give the store clerk a “piece of your mind” in the name of Jesus. There may be times when someone is determined to take the Christ out of Christmas, but don’t "shove" Christ back into Christmas at the risk of turning someone away from the very name you’re trying to protect. And for heaven’s sake, please be loving on Facebook.
We are told in Matthew 10:22, “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.” We can’t let this surprise us when hate from the world happens.
Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying (or what I’m not saying). I’m not saying don’t stand up for Truth. Anyone who knows me knows that I believe we should always, boldly proclaim the name of Jesus Christ! But, we should be proclaiming that name all year round, not just at Christmas, and we should always do it in love.
So, this Holiday season, which includes everything from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, please remember that we must be like Jesus at all times. Instead of pushing people toward Christ, let Him do the drawing. He’s that compelling. When we truly submit our lives to Him, I guarantee you that people will look at us and say, “Whatever it is that person has, I want it. Excuse me, can I ask you a question? What makes you different?” And then you can say with extreme love, “What makes me different? Why, that’s Jesus.”