It was on this day in 1856 that the Jews of White Russia were forbidden to wear distinctive clothing that would set them apart from the rest of the populace. Throughout time, Jews have worn traditional clothing that, not only identified them as being Jewish, but also identified them as belonging to a particular sect of Judaism. This particular restriction was intended to force these Jews to assimilate, at least somewhat, into the Russian culture of the day. And while that tactic might seem a bit antiquated, consider that there are places in the world, today, where governments are forbidding people from wearing crosses in certain scenarios. Some are forcing Muslims to abstain from wearing burkas in public, or anything else that would offend or insult someone. In other words, these tactics are being utilized again.
Whether the restrictions are from yesterday or are currently being enforced, these regulations, as far as you and I are concerned, are an attempt to homogenize society. They want to remove anything from society that would insult people or cause someone to be offended or feel uncomfortable. If this continues, then its only a matter of time before society regards people like you and me as offensive. Though its presented as a way to eliminate conflict, this way of thinking also attempts to force the offending party to be silent about what they believe. This important to you and to me because society wants to lure God’s people into the trap of thinking like the world and being like the world. They want us to mix and to mingle with them which, according to Scripture, is forbidden.
Let’s look at this topic from another angle, that is, from within the Body. There are those who believe that other believers should dress like them, should speak like them, should act like them and should interpret Scripture the way they do. People, believers and non-believers alike, have the tendency to arrive at certain conclusions and when confronted with a differing view, become uncomfortable. Sometimes they take offense and insist that others should agree with their conclusion.
Think about this for a moment: everybody thinking the same thing, dressing the same way and speaking the same way is not going to happen. We are all going to have different perspectives and different opinions. We’re not going to look alike, sound alike and act alike. When you consider that there’s only one God and only one Word of God, our uniqueness is quite ironic. How does one God and one Word produce so many different colors, brands and flavors of His people?
Imagine that you and I are on a mountain – you are on one side and I am on the other. We both have the same objective and that is to reach the summit. On my side of the mountain, the obstacles include rivers, ravines, canyons and fallen rocks. You have to contend with snakes, scorpions, bears and mountain lions. Would it be appropriate for me, struggling to traverse ravines and rivers, to tell you, as you try to avoid being bitten by serpents and scorpions, how to ascend the mountain? The answer is, “No.” The circumstances you are dealing with are much different that what I am facing, even though we are on the same mountain and headed for the same summit.
There is only One who can instruct me how to overcome my obstacles and, at the same time, instruct you how to deal with your challenges. He’s already standing at the summit and easily observe both of us at the same time. The point is that we’re all going to have a different perspective, and a different opinion on some things. At times, we’re going to look at Scripture a bit differently, but in the end, the Creator is the One who established the path that we are obligated to walk. He’s the One we need to be listening to if we’re going to reach the summit.
When we are tempted to focus on the other guy and what he’s doing – or what he’s not doing – let’s recall an exchange that took place between the Messiah and Peter, after the resurrection. Jesus asked, “Do you love me?” to which Peter responded, “You know I love you.” After going back and forth a few times, Jesus told Peter:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”
He was telling Peter of the path that he was destined to take and what obstacles he would have to overcome. Upon hearing this, Peter then turned his attention to someone else:
Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”
In a nutshell, here’s what Jesus told Peter: “It’s none of your business what I have for that man to do, or the path that I’ve prepared for him. You keep your eyes on Me, and follow Me.”
We would do well to follow that advice, today. Quit worrying about what the other guy is wearing or isn’t wearing. Quit worrying about what he’s doing and start focusing on following the Messiah. Let Him take care of the other guy. Does that mean that we’re not to offer correction? Of course we are. But first, let’s set the example by being a genuine follower of Messiah. By the way, He chose 12 men – some fishermen and some tax collectors. But all were called to focus upon and follow Him, not the others.