Misunderstood: the gospel vs. being popular

We all have this common belief in middle school that being weird sets you up to be alone. Struggling to fill our blank spaces that cry out for God, people invent superficial standards so they don’t become unwanted. It’s a noble goal to be both weird and unashamed. We invent characters on TV that either validate their own quirks through cynicism, or water down their differences to be just another unique flavor of bland. Growing into adults, we deny that there is any such thing as “normal” (even though every social outcast alive would tell you there is), and hope to God that if other people ignore our weirdness, we’ll be able to strike a deal to ignore theirs.

So which is it? Do you ignore the differences in order to forge on, or do you acknowledge those things that you can’t change, even if your quirks make you feel guilty? Is there a way to both acknowledge your eccentricities and not let them define you?

On the other hand, I know a lot of nerdy people who absolutely hate topics in pop culture because they are so convinced that their differences will never be accepted. I know so many people who actively resent and try to sabotage people who seem to be more well-liked than them. It is easy to covet another person’s social standing when you feel like the perpetual outcast. But maybe hating people who fit in better isn’t working?

As the Breakfast Club would teach us, cynical nerds and popular kids straddle the same double standard. Either you are cynical and genuine, or you are well-accepted and a sell out. Is there no way to be popular and genuine, or well-appreciated and weird? If the world stopped at high school, we’d never know.

I’m grateful that God isn’t like that. I find so much vindication in the cynicism of the prophets. As a cynic who doesn’t feel as though cynicism is optional, it gives me great peace to think that being bothered could be a gift. We all hunger for justice, and in my family, we’ve got all sorts of people praising or despising God for that very reason. We are a people like Thomas, a people who needs to see the nail wounds. I keep praying for my family, and I believe that God will honor that.

I wish it were as simple as hating the popular kids and belittling the nerds. No one would ever have to work harder than hating each other, and we could all just remain in the same muck we were born into.

But God isn’t happy to leave it that way. In my short life, I have gotten to this point where I am finally aware that I don’t need other people to understand me to be accepted and loved by God. I cant tell you how many geeky people would be freed of their bitterness if they could just accept that. I don’t believe that the people who fit in better have any less need for God. I think we are all just trying to do our best and on opposite sides of expectations that do nobody any lick of good.

Regardless of your social standing or the way the world sees you, He is Lord. He knows us intimately, in a way that no other person could know us. Well liked or not, we are known. There is no need to translate for a God who knows everything. God really does understand. He really does care. Even if nobody else does, the Lord knows. Even if people really liked Jesus when he was doing cool stuff for them, I really don’t think too many people understood him. I personally think he was probably the most misunderstood person to walk the earth. Which is okay. His relationship with God was clearly pretty decent. His identity was solid anyways.

As Christians, being nice to people doesn’t depend on whether they understand you or you understand them. God’s goodness can be enough for us. Even if everyone you know is hard to be around, God really loves those people. Even if people remain weird or people never understand you, you still should be kind.


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I am a teacher-to-be who loves people. I am not afraid of many things. I like to explain my thoughts logically on a very birds-eye view level--I was born thinking that way. I follow Jesus Christ, and I accept only that label to describe my identity--that I am a child of God, as are infinite others, regardless of their other identities. Christ is my one thing.

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