An Irregular Column – Letters from London
By Will Pratt (R) –
It’s Hard to Be Different
The Sunday morning congregation of some 100 people were giving me encouraging attention as we reflected on God’s call to the Children of Israel. Only three months after their escape from Egypt, God told these refugees they were to become a nation of priests and a holy people.
Kath and I were leading weekend meetings at an English south coast corps which had been kept alive during World War II days mainly by Salvationist servicemen, training for D-Day. The town had been blasted nightly by the Luftwaffe. From its beaches, the American, Canadian and British forces had left to storm their way back into Europe.
“…to be holy means to be different.
You can’t hold the standards
of this world and those of a holy God
at the same time.”
Even as we sang, “In white, walking in white; He makes me worthy through his Blood to walk with him in white,” we couldn’t help but think about the costliness of what had happened in that place 50 years ago.
I explained that we get the word “holy” from the Greek New Testament word hagios. But the basic meaning of hagios is “different” or “separate.” And I found myself emphasizing, especially to the teenagers present, “Dear young folk, to be holy means to be different. You can’t hold the standards of this world and those of a holy God at the same time.”
Shaking hands with the fine people at the meeting’s conclusion, I noticed a middle-aged uniformed lady waiting to speak to me. “You’re right,” she said, “we are to be different, but it can be costly, can’t it?”
“Our teenage daughter is a good girl. Different from the other kids at school. Doesn’t smoke, drink, take drugs, join in the smutty stories, stay out late. But coming home from school, she was attacked by two boys from her school. They stuck a hypodermic needle in her cheek.
“The police caught them, but did nothing more than threaten what would happen if they did such a thing again. The school expelled them for a week. Our girl transferred to another school rather than face them again, and she finds it harder and has no friends there. She now has bulimia nervosa. The doctors examined her, but say it is up to us whether she has an HIV test or not. It’s hard to be different, isn’t it, Commissioner?”
We were hosted by a very capable lady Salvationist. She is the accountant for a small company and has been happily employed there for 24 years. But now she is troubled. The company has been bought by a man who, she is convinced, is a crook. He is using the company assets to pay off his personal debts.
There is no money to pay the ever-mounting bills which her small company is now accumulating. Every day, business people with whom she is on first-name terms are telephoning to ask, “Hey, what’s up? When’s our check coming through?”
The new boss brushes aside her protests. “They can wait. Tell them not to be in such a hurry.”
We learned this week she had needed to stay at home for two days, trying to handle her stress. The words of the teenager’s mother remain in my mind. “It’s hard to be different, isn’t it, Commissioner?”
Fifty years after this coastal town knew the costliness of fighting a visible enemy, a beautiful, sincere Salvation Army people know how costly is the fight against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world.