After we first moved to the Tulsa area, our two oldest sons, Michael and Robert, attended a rather large Christian high school. Though Michael and Robert are both great kids, Michael fared the best. In fact, after being in school just a few months, Michael began to be showcased and honored. He was often publicly praised, received numbers of awards and ended up the Homecoming King at the end of his first year. Gail and I believed he was an awesome kid, but something about their rush to celebration seemed a little disingenuous and a bit over the top.

Robert, on the other hand, kept getting the short end of the stick. There were times when the actions of the teaching staff and administration toward Robert were nothing short of unfair.

We were initially confused about this seeming disparity until we realized that many of the educators in this Christian school system had an image in mind of what the perfect Christian student should be like. It just so happened that Michael fit the bill quite well. Michael by nature is outwardly compliant, non-confrontational, and quiet. Consequently, he came across exceptionally mature for his age. When they saw the traits they had been trying to cultivate in the other children already present in him, they quickly showcased him.

Robert, on the other hand, opened his mouth too much. Though he was talented, an honor student, and loved God with a tender heart, he would challenge rules, point out hypocrisies and loved to push the envelope – he colored his hair, yelled and applauded in public assemblies in a way that was overkill, et cetera. Robert was always just a little out there.

If they would have taken time to really get to know Michael they would have discovered he saw many of the rules and regulations as every other normal teen did – as silly and non-essential. He was just as opinionated and putout as Robert over the hypocrisies he saw. But he just preferred to leave things alone.

I’m not trying to take anything away from Michael, but my point is – he was just being Michael. He wasn’t trying to appease and brownnose the teaching staff in hopes of becoming their poster child. Michael has enough integrity that if “being Michael” would have gotten him into trouble, he would still have been Michael and gotten into trouble.

I remember talking with Robert while we watched this unfolding. “Robert, don’t you dare feel badly about all the attention Michael is getting here and about how you are being unfairly scrutinized. You are just too different in personality to win in this school system. I wouldn’t have won either. Michael is just being himself and they like that – he is not compromising himself. For you to act like him would be a compromise. I could give you a crash course in brownnosing so you could pretend to be something you are not, but that would be a tragedy. The truth is, I love your edginess. Though you could use a little more wisdom, please continue to be yourself – even if you scare some folks who don’t get the idea of individuality. Chances are you will never get showcased like Michael, but that is okay with your Mom and me. We are proud of both of you.”

Many Christian educators and Christian leaders believe that sameness is godliness and they frown on variation. They are Borg.
Borg Free

We all want to be discipled into a pure form of Christianity, not someone’s brand of Christianity. And we want to be accountable to true godliness, not a human kind. But because most of us want to belong (to not belong brings terror), it is easy to just give in and try to meet the expectations of others. The problem is, we ultimately lose when we do that.

Paul wrote that we are all different, like the parts of the human body. Paul was challenging the church to dare to be different – not to act and think the exact same way. Yes, we are all supposed to be holy. Yes, we are all supposed to be moral. Yes, we are all supposed to live ethically. But we are to live out holiness through the way we are wired: our different gifts, passions, and personalities.