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When Following Jesus Feels Like a Social Risk


I was sitting across the table from a woman at the nail salon a few months ago, talking through all the basic get-to-know-you questions. We were similar in age, but it was obvious that our lives couldn’t have been more different.  Before I left, she looked at me sincerely and said, “You know your life is pretty weird, right?”

She went on, “It’s just that you got married young, seem content with your life in small-town Columbia, are cooking dinner for your friends tonight, work for a church, don’t spend your weekends at the bars. It’s just not really that common, you know?”

I was in shock. What are you supposed to say when someone tells you that your life is weird? I knew the reason my life looked different… but what would she say if I started talking about Jesus?

In that moment I had a choice.

I could smile and laugh it off, try to convince her that “I’m just like you!” Avoid talking about my faith, steer the conversation back to her life, deflect any questions that may expose things we disagree about. Play it safe.

Or I could be honest. Tell her why my life looks strange to her. Explain that the way I live looks different because Jesus has changed everything for me. Take a risk.

What should we do when our faith causes us to feel different?

Maybe you’ve experienced something similar. Been put on the spot about your faith. Been given a window to talk about Jesus but felt like it may be too risky. Sound familiar?

  • A coach doesn’t understand why your kid missed practice for church on a Sunday morning.
  • One of your coworkers asks why you aren’t willing to break a company policy… it’s not that big of a deal, right?
  • A relative teases you for not getting drunk with them at Thanksgiving.
  • Your friend makes a comment that they think people who read the Bible are “outdated” and “naive.”
  • A neighbor asks why you always are hosting different people for dinner.

In these moments, my default is to hide my faith, to dodge the discomfort. When I sense a hint of disagreement or opposition, I try to blend in. It’s safer to smile and nod along, laugh it off, give a shallow explanation.

It’s scary to stand out.

The reality is, following Jesus can feel like a social risk. It won’t always be received well. We may experience rejection. People will disagree, have questions, think it’s weird. It will at times feel lonely. Costly.

So going back to the question….

What should we do when our faith causes us to feel different?  

Here are four ideas:

1. Be ready!

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
1 Peter 3:15

There are people in our lives who don’t know Jesus. Which means there will be always be opportunities to share with others about the hope we have. We should expect these conversations to happen. We should expect to feel out of place at times. And we should expect others to notice and ask questions.

And when we feel different, the Bible tells us to be prepared. Be ready to answer. Be ready to offer hope.  Be ready to explain what Jesus has done for you. When people ask questions, as they get to know your story and see the way you live, be ready to tell them why!

2. Keep being different.

Jesus isn’t surprised that people who follow him stand out. In fact, he wants us to.

If we take the teachings of Jesus seriously (things like giving generously, being sober-minded, speaking honestly, having integrity) people will notice. Because living this way isn’t the norm.

But you are not like that [those who reject him], for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”
1 Peter 2:9

Our lives should stand out in the world because God has chosen us to be different. Set apart. His possession. And not for nothing… our difference has a purpose. We are set apart so that our lives to show others his goodness.

If people notice your good works, your different perspective, your hope… praise God! He’s using your life to show people how good he really is.

3. Follow Jesus's lead.

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.
John 15:18

Jesus is no stranger to rejection. He knew that many would accept and follow him, but many wouldn’t. Jesus was mocked, spit at, betrayed, hated, and killed. Our God knows what it is to be rejected. He wasn’t surprised by it and wasn’t afraid of it.

While we likely won’t experience the type of persecution that Jesus did, we can find comfort knowing that Jesus was “despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.” (Isaiah 53:3)

Jesus is familiar with our suffering. He knows the world may not always respond well. So we can look to him as our model – when you face discomfort or feel rejected for your faith, how would Jesus respond? What would Jesus do if he were you?

4. Remember you are not alone.

In my fear of rejection, I find comfort in this Psalm –

Yet I am always with you;
    you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will take me into glory.

Those who are far from you will perish;
    you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
    I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
    I will tell of all your deeds.
Psalm 73: 23-24, 27-28

Always with you. Holding your hand. Guiding you. Near. A refuge.

In moments where following God feels risky and scary, his presence is near. When following Jesus is unpopular, he’s right there with us. He doesn’t leave us to figure it out alone. Though being a Christian may sometimes feel lonely, we are never alone.

So, how will you live differently in response?

Living differently is hard, but finding a community that shares your values and faith makes it easier. Keith Simon shares why and how finding Christian community is vital for your faith.