Blending In or Standing Out?
by Samantha Trenkamp
This article first appeared in the January/February 2016 print edition of Daughters of Promise.
We've probably all heard it at one time or another. Something new or exciting would come along and we would get swept up into it. With much enthusiasm we’d tell our parents about this new thing or new idea. Then, with the wisdom granted them through many more years of experience, they would see right to the end of this “new fad” and try to dissuade us from jumping on board too quickly.
In our youthful delusion of intelligent superiority, we sought to justify our claims by stating, “But Mom! Everyone else is doing it!”
Unshaken, she would then expose the risks and consequences of a hasty decision governed by the masses by sharing this valuable adage: “Well, honey, if everyone else jumped off a cliff, does that mean you should too…?”
Hard to argue with that kind of logic, isn’t it? Now here we are, “all grown up” yet still peering over the edge and wondering if it’s really worth it to stay on the high ground.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a man who knew what it was like to stand on the edge and watch everyone jumping. In a world that was drastically black & white, he stood up and began to challenge the presupposed ideas and convictions of those around him. In the end, he began a change that would affect the whole of America. He saw the masses running and stumbling after each other for the cliff and he said, “There is a better way!”
This did not come without controversy, though. At one point, Mr. King was arrested and sentenced to a jail in Birmingham, Alabama. While there, he penned these words in a letter:
“The early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days, the Church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society."
How’s that for a challenge? Are we simply a thermometer, picking up the readings of our surrounding culture and peers? Are we afraid to go against the tide and so become another person in the crowd who won’t dare stick their neck out, leaving someone else to initiate the radical changes that you yourself are called to make?
We are heavily influenced by our surrounding culture. That’s not always a bad thing, but it will affect us on some level. When approaching problems and new concepts, we will look at them largely through the lens of our culture and upbringing. As Anabaptists, we also have a culture all our own because of our specific beliefs. Our traditions and culture can help us as we approach the curves and dilemmas along our way, but sometimes they can also hinder, even blind us. If we become too comfortable and never ask why we do things the way we do, it can become quite easy for us to follow the crowd, because we never feel the need to question them so as to gain a deeper understanding; we simply assume everything is up to par and as it should be. But God encourages us to not become apathetic when He said, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (1 Tim. 2:15)
A thermometer only records the temperature of its surroundings; but a thermostat sets the temperature and alters its surroundings.
As children of God, we have surrendered all we once were to follow after Jesus, and He is the One we now let dictate our decisions and loyalties. We are allowing Him to change us from the inside out. Everything we do is out of love and devotion to Him. We are no longer bound by the “mores of society” and are now called to attempt to reform the norm. No more must we allow the things of this world to determine our “temperature”, because now we are the ones standing out and “setting the temperature”. It is our choice as to whether or not we will allow the things of this world to change our settings. In Christ we now hold the power, and responsibility, of the gauge.
When the Lord gave a message to John for the church in Laodicea, He said, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:14-16)
It’s fairly common for readers to understand this passage as saying that being hot is to be on fire for God, being cold means your fire has burned out, and being lukewarm is the hypocrite who isn’t one way or the other.
If I may use a crude analogy, this passage makes me think of a conversation I had a while back. The young people in our church have ongoing, friendly banter between the coffee drinkers and the tea drinkers. While preparing his after lunch cup-of-joe, a friend said, “Coffee has to be hot to be good; warm coffee is just gross.”
“What about iced coffee?” I asked.
“Oh, well, that’s good too. But anything in between…”
And so it is with tea as well. Hot or cold will do fine, but lukewarm tea gets bitter and unpleasant. In the New Bible Commentary 21st Century Edition, it states,
“The terms cold, hot, and lukewarm are likely to relate to waters around and in Laodicea. Nearby Hierapolis was famed for its hot springs; Colossi, also near at hand, was noted for a cold, clear stream of excellent drinking water. Since, however, the River Lycus dried up in summer, Laodicea had to use a long viaduct for its water, which was not only tepid, but impure and sometimes foul, making people sick.”
Here’s what I’m thinking with these classifications of temperature. Hot could mean that we are “on fire”, we are passionate and driven to follow God and further His Kingdom by serving Him. Cold could mean that we quench the flames of hate and anger, thereby ushering in peace and healing. While the lukewarm are those who are allowing the sinful influences of the world to dictate their actions and focus.
What kind of temperature are we striving to set within the realm in our realm of influence Within the home, mothers hold the greatest influence as to whether the home life is one of joy, love, and understanding, or frustration and bitterness. It’s been said that, “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” and it has been my experience that this holds true 99% of the time. Mothers, you hold the dial that will set the temperature for the atmosphere of your home!
What about at work? When the workload becomes overwhelming, do we cast our cares on Him and seek the joy of the Lord to be our strength in such times? When our co-workers drive us batty, do we approach relationships with grace and love instead of pride? What are we doing to set the temperature for good in the workplace?
This carries over into the church, and being a witness in our communities. Our actions and behavior can dramatically change the mood of a given situation. If your church is having relational struggles, how are you modeling Christ in the midst of that, and thereby setting a standard that others will be encouraged to acclimate to as well? As witnesses in our local communities we reveal Christ and His Kingdom by our attitudes and actions. Does the “temperature” of a room change when you enter because you are bringing the presence of the Lord in with you?
Will we be thermometers and simply mimic outside influences? Or will we be thermostats who aren’t afraid to push past the crowd and set a whole new “room temperature”?
You alone hold the dial that will determine the answer.