Different. That’s how I would best describe the past five months of my life since I left Texas and headed off to live in the Middle East. Not a bad different—just different.
The people are different, the smells are different, their decisions are different, the sounds are different, viewpoints are different, and I’m different. However, this isn’t a bad thing. In fact, we are called to be a different people in a place that believes and practices things contrary to what we believe. We are called to be in the world but not of it.
Called to be different
We are called to be different. Sometimes we have to travel halfway across the world to remember that. It’s far too easy to get comfortable in Texas, or California, or Massachusetts, or wherever you may live right now. But one thing that has been impressed upon me is the importance for us, as believers, to be different, regardless where we live.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean different in the Lady Gaga/Hollywood/I want to stand out/everyone look at me sort of way. I’m not advocating for any sort of self-promotion or self-aggrandizement. Rather, it’s quite the opposite.
Every day here, I’m different. I live in a place where you tell the time of day with reference to the five prayer times. It’s a place where mosques are more common than churches in the Bible belt. Everything here is just different.
Less of self
To make less of self and more of Jesus, you have to be different. But I’ve realized I’ve watered this down back home. I try to blend the two. I’m probably not alone in this. We mix our beliefs with that of the culture, and we try to save face and not be seen as “weird” wherever we can.
In reality, the Middle East is not so different from the mainstream culture of the United States. Sure, they advocate for and preach different things. But it’s all the same in the fact that it is all different from what is taught to us in the Bible.
I’ve often thought of that moment when I step off of the plane back home and am no longer different, no longer an anomaly, no longer one of the only foreigners among hundreds of thousands of people in my city. But I’ve realized, even when I step off the plane onto American soil once again, I’m still called to be different.
J.R. is a Texas student serving in the Middle East with Go Now Missions. His full name is withheld for security reasons.