I know that a lot of people complain about school uniform, but I actually think it is quite a good thing. I’ve seen the pressure that people feel under before non-uniform days, the conversations that take place, discussing what is going to be worn. But a school uniform… there is no thought process required, you wake up and you put on your clothes – SIMPLES! As well as there not being any thought process required, it also means that everyone is wearing the same, therefore possibly one less thing that can be picked on.
Obviously people try to personalise their uniforms, whether that is by rolling up skirts, or blazer sleeves; wearing nail varnish; not wearing a tie; doing something with their hair. Quite often though, everybody will be doing a similar thing, therefore it’s not actually that personal after all. Throughout our lives we will spend our lives trying to fit in. Whether that is by watching the same things as others; buying similar clothes; listening to the same music. Even if we don’t necessarily like those things we will say that we do, in order to fit in. However, in 2 Corinthians Paul writes “Why work so hard to fit in when you were called to be set apart”
What does it mean to be set apart? It means to live differently, and to be recognised for doing so. Not because you want to be different and to rebel, but because you are choosing to live in a certain way.
Jesus was the perfect example of someone who was set apart. He went against what his society expected him to do. He spoke to people who others wouldn’t; he had friends who were women; he ‘worked’ on the Sabbath; and he challenged the authorities. Why did he do these things? Did he want to make a scene? Did he want to look good in front of his friends? NO. He was following His father’s will, he was doing the right thing, he was demonstrating love.
In RS lessons I hear a lot of comments from pupils about what they believe Christians are, and how they should behave. And yet… because of the cross… we are told that we don’t need to worry about that. When asked which was the most important commandment Jesus summed them up into two. The first commandment was “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second “Love your neighbour as yourself”.
Two separate commandments and yet actually they are very carefully intertwined. If someone does the first, that should automatically lead to the second. If you think about someone in your life who you admire, look up to, respect, then you are likely to do things which they would do, or things that they would like to do. Christianity isn’t about a load of rules, it is about living in love, because that is what Jesus did, and that is why Jesus came to earth in the first place, because God loved humans.
What did Paul mean to be set apart? It’s not about purposefully doing things differently to everyone else because you want to make a point. It is about acting in love and not worrying about if that makes you stand out from the crowd. Not joining in when others are gossiping, not watching a tv programme because of the message it gives. I’m falling into that trap again aren’t I of listing everything you shouldn’t do. So what else might it mean? Taking the time to help someone who is upset, telling an adult if you know someone is being bullied, giving your pocket money to charity, spending some of your free time volunteering.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if nobody stood out for doing those things? But for now, that is what we are, we are called to be set apart, do you have the courage to do so? If not, don’t worry you can always ask God.
Challenge: think about the different things you do. Do you do them because other people are? Are they loving things to do? Is there you should stop doing or anything you can start doing to stand out in love?
Prayer: Father God, thank you that you have chosen us, and that you have chosen us to be set apart. Give us the strength and courage to be willing to stand out from the crowd and act in love, that people may know from our actions that we love you. Amen