Welcome back to school, ladies and gentlemen – back to school and sports and cheerleading and clubs and activities. I have no doubt in my mind that some of you – and you know who you are – will find ways to fill up so much of your time that you begin to wonder how little sleep you can realistically get by with on a nightly basis.
And after a summer that many of you in the youth group spent together – more so this summer than at any time in the past – now you’re all back to the “regular” friends and groups of friends and the things you have all done with those groups of friends for so long. The social stuff, the casual talk, the parties, the gossip…
Amazing how different being back to school is from living in the school during the Mission Trip this past summer, isn’t it? Mostly – to my point, finally – isn’t it amazing how our own behaviors and talk change when we’re no longer surrounded by people who all share a common purpose for service and a common faith in God, when we’re “back in the world” where it’s normal to swear like a sailor and make crude jokes about girls – or guys – and where serving others is strange and different and being outwardly Christian is definitely not on the list of 10 most likely things to help you win the “Most Popular” designation in the yearbook?
Yet, isn’t this our calling?
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, The righteous shall live by faith. – Romans 1:16-17, ESV
Now, I’m certainly not telling you all to go stand in the lunchroom on a table and begin to imitate the preacher on the corner in downtown Minneapolis who spends his lunch hours shouting the Gospel to passersby, Bible in hand, warning people who aren’t listening of horrors untold because of their sinful ways. I’m certainly not advocating that you do anything that would intentionally ostracize you from friends or make people who claim to be your friends begin to whisper the words “Jesus freak” when you walk up. I don’t think you need to be the chairperson of the student-led Bible study.
So, then, you’re asking, what’s the point? What do you expect?
Start thinking of the phrase “set apart”. In the first couple sentences of the book of Romans, Paul declares himself, as an Apostle, “set apart” for the Gospel, and then goes on to say that everyone who believes in Christ is also an Apostle, and is also “set apart”. If Paul was an Apostle set apart to preach the Gospel, then we’re set apart, as Apostles ourselves, to live the Gospel.
Be the Sermon. Reflect Christ. We can’t be perfect like Jesus, but we can do our best to let others see Him in us – be the one who doesn’t join in the cussing, the crude jokes, the inappropriate comments. Show your strength and your conviction by standing up for the one the group may be teasing. Make other people wonder what you’ve got that makes it so that you can be happy without talking smack about that kid who everyone picks on. And then, when someone has noticed, and asks you what’s going on that you’re not joining in, take your opportunity – publicly or privately – and tell them why.
That can be the lesson you teach this school year.