The protagonist in the movie, Divergent, didn’t respond as expected. She acted differently than her peers. Fitting in society proved challenging. She looked at life and the world through a disparate lens. She was divergent.
When I first watched this movie, I remember thinking: Wow, this is precisely what it means to live as followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus was divergent and invites us to live likewise.
Think about it. As compared to our culture, followers of Jesus do appear divergent. For us to live in the way of Jesus means responding to situations in unexpected ways. We choose behaviors that conflict with the world’s assumptions. We lead dissimilar lives because we move in unanticipated directions. In plain terms, we don’t fit because we are not supposed to. The Bible actually describes us as “strangers” and “aliens” in this world (see 1 Peter 2:11-12).
How do we become divergent?
As we read and learn from the Bible, the Holy Spirit transforms us, so we begin to “see” with new eyes. This transformation, or becoming divergent, causes us to shift from following cultural norms to pursuing the countercultural ways of Jesus. This makes no sense to the world. But we do it fearlessly because God is faithful. He tells us to listen for His voice, look for His movement, and lean into the Spirit’s activity around us.
In what ways do you “see” the world differently as a divergent disciple of Christ?
You are not alone. Consider a few divergent characters from the pages of Scripture.
- Demonstrating trust in God, young David chose five smooth stones to slay a daunting giant (see 1 Samuel 17).
- Daniel and his companions consumed different foods revealing an allegiance to a different King (see Daniel 1).
- Ruth left her native home to follow her mother-in-law to a foreign land, eventually becoming a part of the lineage of Christ (see Ruth 1).
- Ezekiel prophesied dry bones would regain life because he “saw” with the eyes of the Lord (see Ezekiel 37).
- A simple man named Hosea followed God’s instructions to love an unfaithful wife, displaying God’s unconditional love (see Hosea).
- The Woman who poured out the expensive perfume upon Jesus loved with other-worldly extravagance (see Luke 7).
- Barnabas sold his possessions; releasing them to be shared with the community in need (see Acts 9).
These are just a sampling. Further study reveals many more ordinary people who followed God in obedience and found themselves divergent when compared to cultural standards and expectations.
What other divergent characters from the Bible come to your mind?
Let’s look at the ultimate divergent protagonist, our Lord Jesus Christ. He sacrificed His life so others might know and enjoy communion with God. While some welcomed Him, most did not understand His ways or follow Him, but His divergent living changed the world. Notice the divergent teachings that flowed from His mouth. Here are just a few:
- “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44)
- “When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matt. 6:3)
- “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and thieves break in and steal” (Matt. 6:19)
- “Do not worry about your life…” (Matt. 6:25)
- “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged” (Matt. 7:1)
- “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matt. 12:50)
- “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matt, 16:25)
When reading the Bible, do you notice Jesus’ divergent instructions? Do you realize those teachings are for you and me?
Early followers of Jesus Christ embraced His divergent lifestyle, and they too, changed the world around them.
- Stephen forthrightly spoke to the opposing Council and became the first martyred Christ-follower (see Acts 6-7).
- Even after being thrown in jail, Peter and the apostles proclaimed unswerving commitment to obeying God not man (see Acts 5).
- Paul declared counterintuitively that in weakness is strength (2 Corinthians 12:10).
- Dorcas served widows openhandedly rather than simply serving herself with the resources and talents God had given her (see Acts 9).
- James urged others to not become polluted by the world but to exhibit a lifestyle consistent with the teachings of Jesus (see James 1).
People walking in the way of Jesus model divergent living. Following Jesus involves seeing the world with God’s heart and through His eyes. Life with God results in His transforming power realigning our attractions, attitudes, and actions. As we listen to and trust the Holy Spirit within, we mature and grow more deeply towards life God’s way, diverging from the world’s way.
Muse over these questions –
- Does your life resemble the ways of the world or the ways of the Word?
- In what manner does your life reveal divergent living?
- What prevents you from seeing people or circumstances through God’s eyes?
- What scares you about living differently?
Embrace divergent living by following Jesus and obeying His Word. This leads to the full, abundant, and world-changing life Jesus lived and offers everyone (see John 10:10).
Drips from the Word: Muse about these Bible verses. Let these truths impact your living.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
1 Peter 2:11-12
Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and aliens, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!”
Splashes from the Spigot: Drink from deep wells. Check out these suggested readings.
George Mueller. The Autobiography of George Mueller. New Kensington, PA, 1984
DCTalk. Jesus Freaks: Martyrs: Stories of Those Who Stood for Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI. 1999.
DCTalk. Jesus Freaks: Stories of Revolutionaries Who Changed Their World Fearing God, Not Man. Grand Rapids, MI. 2002.
Puddles for Prayer: Thank you for praying for upcoming travel and speaking engagements.
September 12-17 – Spofford, NH
Retreat Speaker, Camp Spofford