Monday, February 22, 2010

I'm Different

Four years ago, Michael Tristanis, his wife Jeanette, and their twin girls, were tired of the crime, traffic, hurricanes, and cost of living in Miami. They wanted to do something about it. Then, the Tristianis’ saw an ad from the Hazelton Development Corporation, in Hazelton, North Dakota. Michael said the ad was an answer to prayer.

The corporation was developed by a group of concerned citizens in Hazelton, ND, who wanted to save their town from extinction. The dwindling town of 240 people was offering families up to two free lots and up to $20,000 towards home purchases. They were also offering free lots and up to $50,000 for businesses who located in the small town.

Michael and his family decided to give it a try. They packed up their belongings and took Hazelton up on their offers. They obtained the two free lots and bought a third. They purchased a house, built by students in Bismarck, which is about 45 miles away, and had it moved to their newly acquired land. They opened a bistro and coffee shop, and settled into their new life in North Dakota.

The pleasantness of having no crime and plenty of elbow room, soon faded as they realized how little they had in common with the rest of the folks in Hazelton. In an area where pick-up trucks are the vehicle of choice, and flannel shirts go with everything, the Tristianis’ didn’t quite fit the mold. When they rode into town, they were driving their Lexus. They wore fashionable clothes, gold chains and Rolexes. Michael said, “They thought I was a drug dealer.”

The bistro business failed. Michael began buying houses in Bismarck to repair and resell. Jeanette went to work for a calling center in the nearby town of Linton, but lost that job when the center went out of business. They have decided that they simply do not fit in this small town, and some of the locals agree. One local was quoted as saying, “Not everyone fits in a small town.” The Tristianis’ have given up on small town life and are trying to move back to Florida.

This story made me think of how silly we are, as Christians, to think we can blend in with the world and be effective for the Kingdom of God. Sometimes, we take great pains to make ourselves appear to be like the world. However, those who are not Christian, can sense that there is something different about us. They may not be able to identify it, but they know that we are not like them. To them, we are no different than Michael Tristianis showing up in Hazelton, ND, with gold chains and a Lexus. We stand out whether we want to or not.

A bank, from the upstate of South Carolina, had one of the most successful ad campaigns in recent history. American Federal Bank ran commercials that contained the Randy Newman song, “I’m Different.” Their mascot was a black sheep named Scooter, who usually wore roller skates. The whole idea was that they weren’t like other banks. The lyrics to the song were changed a bit from the original, but the message was in tact. “I’m different, I don’t care who knows it. Something about me’s not the same. I’m different, and that’s how it goes. Ain’t gonna play no white sheep games.” (Any of you who remember those commercials will now have that song in your head for the rest of the week. You’re welcome!)

Jesus said in John 15:18-19 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” That means that no matter how we try, if we are called out by Jesus Christ to follow Him, we will never be accepted by the world.

So, what do we do about it? Do we just grin and bear the fact that we’re different? Yes. The world needs us to be different. The world needs for us not to compromise. The world needs desperately to see people who will stand for their beliefs and boldly lift up the name of Jesus Christ.

Are you willing to be a “black sheep” for Jesus Christ, in this world of compromise?

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." (1 Peter 1:13-16 NIV)

Do not conform any longer 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 NIV)

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