Admittedly, it was frustrating.
I almost put them on unaware.
Then I looked more closely and held them under the light. It was pretty hard to tell at first.
Yep. My suspicions were confirmed.
These socks did not match. One was dark blue, the other was black. And, while subtle enough, upon closer inspection I also observed that the patterns were slightly different.
I realized that nobody was likely to notice but I just couldn’t wear them mismatched. They didn’t belong together. They weren’t made to go together. The manufacturer didn’t intend it and I wouldn’t go along with it.
It would be tantamount to sartorial sacrilege.
No one else would know – but I would. If I met a horrible misfortune, the first thing the doctor or the undertaker would notice was my mismatched socks. “What a loser” they’d think.
I proceeded to search for the true partners but alas was unsuccessful. So I grabbed another matching pair. Off to my meeting I went, confident that while I might not slay dragons on this day, deliver the State of the Union address or even raise any money for my ministry, at least my socks would match.
But when it happened again, about two months later, I knew I had to solve this.
I was walking through a clothing store one day and noticed some men’s socks. They sported dazzling colors and bold, distinctive patterns. They were cheerful.
Here was my answer!
Who could ever mismatch these colorful socks? They were named Happy Socks. They looked happy. And since I’ve always loved color, these socks made me happy. So I bought some.
It took a bit of courage but I wore them to church.
“I like your socks” one lady said with a smile. “I noticed them right away”. I gradually got used to wearing these different stockings. Sure they stood out, but what’s wrong with that?
And there have been no mismatched socks since. How could there be?
I’ve added to my collection of these cheerful, colorful socks. I like them because they’re different and because I can easily tell them apart from the others. I know which ones go together immediately. And which ones don’t.
Distinctiveness is like that. It makes a difference because it is different.
Our lives as followers of Jesus Christ should be distinctive. In a gray cold world filled with despair and hopelessness; torn apart by hatred, violence and immorality; pressured by drab conformity and shallow popular opinion, you and I ought to stand out from the crowd.
There’s a positive way to stand out – and a negative way. The Bible mentions both.
Amos the prophet puts it plainly: “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3, KJV).
“Don’t team up with up with those who are unbelievers,” Paul tells the Corinthians. “How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever?” (II Corinthians 6:14-15, NLT).
Good questions and we know the answer.
The chasm is yawning and getting wider.
In a culture grown increasingly hostile toward Christian values, the believer faces the reality of being hopelessly mismatched with a world that is not our home. Loyalty to Christ means a separation from – and at times a confrontation with – this world and its values.
It means standing out. It means being different.
We cannot love God as we should if we fall in love with the world as it is.
The scriptures also offer a positive alternative to simply condemning the world and retreating from it. Self-righteous withdrawal has never been God’s plan. That wasn’t the prayer of Jesus for his church.
Jesus says we must let the light of our love and faith shine before others in such a way that the watching world will take note of our distinctiveness. And that distinctiveness in the way we live will bring glory to God.
Paul speaks of the personal virtues of Christianity in his letter to the Galatians. He describes these virtues as “the fruits of the spirit”. They bring color and difference to our lives.
They make us stand out in such a winsome and compelling way that we could never be mismatched with the world.
You and I have the exciting opportunity – and Christ-honoring duty – to let God’s Holy Spirit color our lives with the deep reds of love, the bright yellows of joy and the serene blues of peace. We add to this positive pattern the royal purples of goodness and faithfulness, the effervescent greens of patience and kindness and the soft lavenders of gentleness and self-control.
Our lives in Christ are to be distinctive. In this fallen world we can never be perfect but we should always desire to be different and to make a difference. To think and act as the world does is, for the Christian, to be forever mismatched.
By God’s grace working in us, you and I can display the unique colors and patterns that mark us as his, match us with him and help us to stand out from the crowd.
And this, in the end, is what makes us truly happy.