Written By Savannah Janssen, Liechtenstein
A few years back, I was leading a group of students through weekly Bible studies, when one of the girls openly asked, “Do you guys really believe what we are reading? And if so, does it truly make a visible difference in our lives?“
At first, everyone was a little taken aback. But then two or three others piped up, confessing that they have struggled with similar questions in their walks of faith. These questions are real. And they are important. Asking honest questions and experiencing doubt is not futile, but can lead us to new perspectives of and knowledge about God. Have you ever wondered:
Does my religion really make a difference in the life I’m living?
Does being a Christian make me a “better person”?
Do people see that my life is genuinely different because I believe in God?
I have come to know wonderfully kind and honest individuals who were not Christians. Sadly, I have also had many non-believers tell me, “I know people who are not religious, and they are lovelier than all the Christians I know.” Let me tell you, that hurts to hear . . . but they have a point.
The underlying assumption is obvious: Christians ought to be different because of what we believe in. The Bible calls us to be a city on a hill, and the salt and light of this earth (Matthew 5:13-16). So yes, our lives are intended to make a profound and lasting difference. But how? Scripture shows us a couple of ways our lives could look different:
1. How we treat ourselves
Have you ever let the expectations of others drive who you are? Several times in my life, I have allowed false expectations to push me to pretend to be someone I am not. In those instances, I had forgotten that the One who created us gets to define who we really are, not others.
God calls us to a higher standard, a better version of ourselves: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
Though we mess up, though we have failed again and again, because of the sacrifice of Christ, God welcomes us unconditionally when we’re willing to turn to Him. He calls us chosen, holy, and special. This is the foundation we ground our identity in. Moreover, our relationship with God encourages us to transform into the person He has created us to be.
I don’t know about you, but I crave a new start from time to time. The fact is, God offers this every single day. God sees us with eyes of perfect love, and He does not hold our past against us. Because of His Son, we can have absolute freedom from condemnation (Romans 8:1-2). God pursues us with unconditional love. With that knowledge, we can face each day with confidence and grace for ourselves as we strive to be Christ-like.
2. How we treat others
We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). We were created out of love and for love. Have you ever loved someone so much that, out of your love for them, you begin to enjoy what they enjoy? When we love someone, we naturally grow to care for what they care for. It’s the same when it comes to God.
When we remain close to God’s heart, our hearts beat for the same things that His heart beats for. We begin to notice when there is need around us. We begin to see the world through God’s eyes, and start living out God’s love for all His children. This is not an option, but a sincere command by the creator of love Himself.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)
Since we have so freely received God’s love, our faith should make a difference in the way we extend our love to others as the world watches on.
One characteristic of God’s love is His lavishing generosity (Matthew 7:11; Luke 15:22-24). We should imitate this generosity in our own lives. For example, we can be generous with our time. In our fast-paced society, it can be hard to slow down and share our limited time with others. But we know that everything we have comes from God, so let us generously invest our time when someone asks for that extra hour of help or consolation. Generously sharing what is most valuable to us, will mark the love which we live by.
Our relationship with God should make a visible difference in our lives, because it causes us to live in a way that is counter-cultural and other-worldly. While the world calls us to hate, God calls us to love (Matthew 5:39-43). Where there is despair, we are called to hope (Hebrews 6:19). It is the poor, the meek, the mourning, the pure of heart, and the persecuted who shall inherit the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3-10). The pattern that emerges might seem paradoxical to this world, but then, so was the sacrifice of Christ.
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)
In sum, a life of faith can and should make a difference. Why? Because our lives are reflections of profound hope, everlasting truth, incomparable peace, steadfast joy, and unconditional love. When people look at our lives, they should see that how we treat ourselves and others is indeed making a difference, not for our own sake, but for God’s purpose.