Standing Out

Once upon a time, a certain famous, wealthy and influential man found religion. It was an unlikely and unexpected choice of religion for someone of his background and nationality; partly because of this, his conversion received quite a bit of public attention.

standA short biography of the man tells of how devout he was in this religion, and how important it was in his life. Right after discussing this, the same short biography tells — with no sense of irony whatsoever — of how he frequently cheated on his wife (once having an affair with the wife of his closest friend) and how he used drugs and alcohol heavily.

Based on this, it would seem that his religion did not bring him the peace and satisfaction that he hadn’t found in fame, fortune, sex or drugs. More to the point, it would seem that his religion did not bring about any holiness or righteousness that would make his life and character stand out from the secular world around him. What I find really interesting, though, is that no one really seems to have expected it to.

To many people, “religion” is merely a set of beliefs that have no particular grounding in reality, and no real effect on the character of a person who follows it. In their view, a person’s religion may motivate them to do any number of unusual and even negative things, but it cannot be counted on to make any meaningful improvement to who they are.

In this regard, they’re pretty much right on.

There are good reasons why many Christians do not refer to themselves as being “religious.” They understand that a “religion,” correctly defined, is just a set of rules and traditions that a person may inherit from their parents, or choose as a way to feel like they’re connected to something greater than themselves. They also understand that this is not what Jesus Christ came to bring.

Woodrow Wilcox


The Christian faith was never meant to be just one more set of religious practices among many others in the world. It has always been meant as the way for God to be found by any person who honestly seeks him. And a person who truly encounters God will inevitably be changed by that encounter. True faith in God, as A.W. Tozer wrote, overturns “the whole life of the individual and [makes] him into another person altogether.”

The popular secular stereotype of Christians is that they’re flaming hypocrites, full of empty religious talk, who often flagrantly commit the same sins they freely and harshly judge others for. This false view is based on the assumption that Christianity is a mere “religion” that isn’t real and doesn’t really change anyone. Such thinking narrowly focuses on “religious” hypocrisy — real or imagined — and fails to recognize or appreciate the deep, authentic change that many people have experienced through Christ. Some have been addicts, or criminals, or whatever else you could think of. Some have had their lives changed virtually overnight, and others much more slowly, depending on how quickly they’ve been ready to let God turn them away from their old ways for good. But all of them have been made into something altogether different from what they were before.


The person who has truly encountered God will generally not be up on some high horse placing judgment on others (however much others may accuse them of this). Rather, they will be constantly aware of their own status as fallen, broken sinners wonderfully saved by God’s grace. They will not see themselves as “better” than others, or others as “worse” than themselves. They will not be afraid to call sin for what it is, but the sins they’ll be the quickest to call out will be their own.

It’s easy to see that the world around us is getting darker all the time. There are all kinds of great evils that keep growing larger. Some are wrongs that almost everyone still recognizes as such, while others are evils that many people will no longer admit are wrong at all.

Surely, in this world, anyone who has something more than just “religion” should have no problem standing out.

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David Mann is a Christian who lives in Florida.
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