One of the biggest issues that I think believers, especially new believers, have is being a Christian in front of people who aren't. Especially in front of family and friends who have known them their entire lives.
This is an issue I truly struggle with. I was raised as a believer, but turned from Christianity in my teens, and see now that my faith was never very strong before that. Now I am a believer again and feel so amazingly joyful, inspired, and radiant about my new relationship with God.
Due to this new relationship with God, I am being molded and changed daily. Just a few years ago, I was acting very differently: going out with friends on the weekends to bars, dressing less modestly, dating different men. It was a very "normal", maybe even more modest, existence for most 21 year olds today.
But now, I am very different. The way God has moved in my life is amazing. He not only forgave me my transgressions, but he filled me with the Holy Spirit, who is daily guiding and nurturing me. I feel new, clean, happy. I know that God is tugging at my heart via the Holy Spirit and leading me in directions he wants me to go.
This can be very difficult for some of my old friends to accept. Some of them were old Christian friends from my teen years who fell away from Christ. Others have never been believers. While I have tried to maintain some sort of relationship with these people, I find it very difficult sometimes to be my new self in front of them.
The other big area of difficulty for me is with my family. I have family members who are not believers and others who are believers but have not been convicted to live a Christian life as I have been. They of course knew me when I was not a believer (or when I claimed to be one, yet didn't act like it). It is easy for them to see the difference in me and wonder what kind of brainwash I have stepped into.
I think of this because I spoke with my dad today about taking a trip to Central America this summer. My stepmother is from a central american country and they have asked if we would like to join them on a trip. My first instinct is "YES!". I love to travel! I cannot think of anything better than seeing new places and experiencing new cultures.
I immediately wondered about the ability to stay modest in the hot climate. I wear skirts all the time: what about hiking in the Mayan ruins? I can already see the less than tactful comments about me being "impractical" by wearing high neck-lines and skirts everywhere. I can already see the odd looks when I come out in my modest swimwear (a short sleeve rash-guard shirt, and a pair of calf-length board shorts). Part of me doesn't even want to go because I don't want to go through the hassle of dealing with the stares and remarks.
The Christian life is not easy, and was never meant to be easy. I could be wallowing in a jail cell like Paul, or I could be martyred like so many Christians throughout history. Instead I am scared of a few scathing comments from friends and family who just don't understand.
The instinct is to flee from all of these people. I have made quite a few Christian friends, but I truly believe that it is my job to minister to those around me. I might benefit from hanging out only with Christians, but my non-Christian friends and family will not benefit. Christ said "Go, and make disciples", not go and isolate yourself from this dangerous world.
I heard a great quote the other day regarding the Titanic. It was: a boat in the ocean is good, but the ocean in a boat is a disaster. We as Christians are to be immersed in this world of sin, working for good, but we are not to allow the world to be immersed in us. How difficult! Especially when people in this world make is so much more difficult.
I pray all of you are encouraged to know that I feel this way, and I pray some of you can commiserate with me. It is not easy to feel the eyes of judgement on us, thinking we are stupid for believing in God and his son Jesus Christ. However, we need to constantly preach to ourselves, reminding ourselves what is true and why we must live up to the calling of Jesus we have had.
1 Corinthians 1:2, in the introduction, Paul writes:
To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called
to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name
of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:
Preach these words to yourself. We are called to be his holy people as we have been sanctified in Jesus Christ. I know that I have been preaching them to myself a lot lately, and praying for the strength to stand firm in the ways of the Lord.