No doubt, family and friends were horror-struck by his peculiar, anti-social behavior.
There he was, doffing his clothes and marching away naked in his rejection of family prosperity and patrimony. Choosing to leave his fortune behind, he put on a beggar’s cloak, kissed lepers, and began restoring ruined chapels.
Having obtained a coarse woolen tunic, the dress then worn by the poorest peasants, he tied it round him with a knotted rope and went forth at once exhorting the people of the country-side to penance, brotherly love, and peace.
Francis of Assisi went on to found the Franciscan Order devoted to “follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus and to walk in his footsteps.” He declared that he, “considered himself no friend of Christ if he did not cherish those for whom Christ died.”
He became well known for his love of birds and animals, believing that nature itself was the mirror of God, calling all creatures his “brothers and sisters,” referring to “Brother Sun” and “Sister Moon.” His legacy includes the marvelous hymn, “All Creatures of Our God and King.”
Here’s the thing. In a very real way, God calls all of us who follow Christ to be maladjusted, to be odd, to be peculiar.
In his book, “The Good and Beautiful Community,” James Smith quotes from a first-century Christian document known as the Epistle to Diognetus (c. 120-200). Here’s what Athenagoras wrote about those “different” Christians almost two millennia ago.
“The difference between Christians and the rest of mankind is not a matter of nationality, or language, or customs. Christians do not live in separate cities of their own, speak any special dialect, nor practice any eccentric way of life…They pass their lives in whatever township – Greek or foreign – each man’s lot has determined; and conform to ordinary local usage in their clothing, diet, and other habits. Nevertheless, the organization of their community does exhibit some features that are remarkable, and even surprising. For instance, though they are residents at home in their own countries, their behavior there is more like transients…Though destiny has placed them here in the flesh, they do no live after the flesh; their days are passed on earth, but their citizenship is above in the heavens. They obey the prescribed laws, but in their private lives they transcend the laws. They show love to all men – and all men persecute them. They are misunderstood and condemned, yet by suffering death they are quickened into life. They are poor, yet making many rich, lacking all things, yet having all things in abundance. They repay curses with blessings, and abuse with courtesy. For the good they do, they suffer stripes as evildoers.”
Yes, there ought to be something very peculiar about us Christians. But in a good, life-giving way.
During these pandemic days, some Christians have been accused of putting their own interests ahead of the well-being of others in the name of “religious freedom.”
Consider those pastors who refused to abide by physical distancing guidelines for their worshipping congregations, guidelines designed to protect people from being infected with COVID-19. Sadly, the outcome was predictable. Some congregants and even some of these pastors became victims of COVID-19. That kind of twisted peculiarity is an offense to Christ our Lord.
Christian history is replete with odd people whose peculiarity was refreshingly attractive, just like Jesus. People who were maladjusted to the ways of the world, but well-adjusted to the ways of God.
- Martyrs who sang hymns while being executed.
- Eighteenth-century Quakers who prayed for hours in silence, and then decided to free all their slaves, and what’s more, shockingly pay these former slaves all of the money owed them for their labors.
- A struggling salesman, Stanley Tam, founder of US Plastic Corporation who generated over $140 million for Christian missionary work, and who formally and legally made God the owner of his business.
There comes a time in all our Christian lives when we must hear Christ’s call for us to be maladjusted to the ways of the world and well-adjusted to the ways of God.
Jesus showed us the way when it comes to life-giving peculiarity…
- Challenging injustice,
- Forgiving instead of judging,
- Generous instead of spiteful,
- Turning the other cheek instead of revenge,
- Sacrificing that others might live.
Following Jesus will make us very odd and peculiar from time to time. But in a good way!
Blessings for a “maladjusted” life,
Gordon Dirks President, Corpath