This particular word has been swirling in my head lately. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as “something that fits badly; a person who is poorly adapted to a situation or environment”. Another source explains it as “something of the wrong size or shape for its purpose; one who is considered to be disturbingly different from others”.
The general definition for the word “misfit” invariably includes the idea that a purpose or fit has not been met with. This brings to my mind the reminder that Jesus gave (us) His disciples: “you are not of the world” (John 15:19). In the context of that particular verse, the Lord was preparing His disciples for the reality that they would soon be facing (with His own departure) – a world that would hate them, and the ramifications that such a hatred will bring along with it. He made it specifically clear that the reason for such a hatred was because of Himself: a) He had chosen them out of the world (vs. 19) b) Master-servant relationship and its dynamics (vs. 18, 20) c) the world’s ignorance of the Father’s identity (vs. 21) d) He had now presented the truth to the world (vs. 22, 24).
So, Jesus’ disciples are to be misfits! There is no question about that. We are the “wrong size or shape” for our existing environment. Hence, we will “fit badly”, and be “disturbingly different” from the others in the environment. Take a look at our Lord Himself. Was He a “misfit” in His environment? Was He “disturbingly different from those around Him? In a culture where kids His age tow the line and obey the family and social structure, Jesus once disappeared from the entourage (imagine the distress and duress caused?), only to be found much later engaged in an activity unbefitting someone of His age – a discourse with the teachers in the temple and amazing them with His understanding and answers (Luke 2:41-51). When every Jew observe religiously the dictates of the Law (often down to the minute detail), Jesus chose to conduct many of His ministries in perceived opposition (healing on the Sabbath?) to the general pattern. When it is accepted mode (perhaps even expected?) to claim accompanying credit for good works done, we note that Jesus seemed often to prefer to shy away from such limelight, even charging those He healed to keep it quiet (Luke 5:14). What about the incident when everyone (even the professionals among them) was expectedly flustered by what was going on around them, yet our Lord Jesus slept soundly like a baby through the raging storm (Matthew 8:23-27)? Not forgetting the classic witness of the rabbi who humbly washed the feet of those He taught (John 13)! See? Did our Jesus fit into His society, His environment? Not in the least bit I would say! He was disturbingly different from others for sure.
Yet, it was this misfit Jesus who transformed His society and the world! That was why He was sent here to begin with, because the sinful world needed divine transformation. If Jesus were no different from those around Him, there would have been no possible change to the system and the mindset of His time. He would have merely ended up being touted as a great prophet, but not as the beloved Son of God (which He was indeed)! As He so acutely put it Himself, Jesus came not to abolish the Law nor the Prophets, but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). There was salt and light in the world then, but sadly, these had either lost its flavor or been covered (Luke 5:13-16). Jesus the true Salt and Light came to restore life back to its intended way – the way of God. To this commission, Christians are called as His witnesses upon this earth – to continue this flavoring work of God. It is such a vital and hazardous work that warrants the Lord of the harvest to intercede before His Father just before His own departure, for protection over His disciples who are left in the world but who are not of the world (John 17:1-26)!
There have been many recent reports of Christians in the media limelight, sadly often for all the wrong reasons. An internet search will bring up reports of several globally-known Christian leaders considered now to be detracting from their prior faith stands, some veering even on dangerous faith teachings. One very reputable Christian global icon has not too long ago dissolved in bankruptcy amidst much bitterness and feuding. In another location, there is an ongoing case of a leading church’s leadership running afoul of the law in finance-related issues. Will these issues (whether it is happening at our very doorstep or otherwise) affect the individual believer’s spiritual journey and any church’s corporate ministry? Should they, to begin with? Or are believers expected to simply adopt a “sweep the snow pile at your own doorstep” and then go about your own business?
Clearly unrelated cases, yet there seems to be common threads running through them. All of these started out undoubtedly with a sincere desire to engage in godly works, all in the name of God and for God (so were the Crusades interestingly enough). Along the way, some have indeed been blessed by God with good fruits. However, if in the process man’s agenda has clearly taken the place of God’s agenda, then that is where the problem begins. Pride is often the common source for many a downfall! After all, the Christian (even the greatest servant of the Lord) is still human, and being human, is susceptible to all temptations and wiles (and hence, very much in need of God’s mercy and grace). Plus, we must not forget that the enemy is a prowling lion ever ready to pounce and devour (1 Peter 5:8). Be warned: the Pharisees of Jesus’ day still walk among us even today! Somehow and somewhere in the process, sincerity lost its direction and focus. The cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word (Mark 4:19). No wonder Jesus taught about the importance of the “you abide in Me and I abide in you” principle (John 15:1-17). Yes, the branches must surely remain attached to the vine!
Yet, God’s word clearly includes a stark reminder that God’s measure of spiritual success is not about starting out well or progressing excellently. God desires even more to see His athlete ultimately finishing the race well. So what if you are an ordained reverend with 50 years of glorious service behind you or that you are a Christian 2 years young in your faith? If at the end of your (life) race, you cannot echo honestly the words of the apostle Paul (2 Timothy 4:6-7), then all these really do not amount to anything! All Christians start out at different stages in their life journey, but we can all choose to want to end up at the same destination – heaven’s gate welcomed by Jesus who will then adorn their heads with God’s crown of righteousness!
Misfit. When everyone around you makes decisions based on the world’s value system (e.g. what defines success and happiness, etc.), yet you do so in obedience to your Lord’s will and leading, you are a misfit. When your peers invest their resources to selfishly safeguard their own future (because of reports that the economy will be bleak), yet you obey God’s prompting of your heart to give to the needy and the destitute (despite your own need), you are a misfit. When the mass of the tired population understandably spend their Sunday mornings catching up on precious and needed sleep, yet the same tired you still make it a point to keep your Sabbath holy in obedience to God’s commandment, you are a misfit. Going against the mainstream of society for Jesus will make you a misfit! But be forewarned: the world will hate and misunderstand you when you are such a misfit, just as they hated and misunderstood your Lord Jesus. When that happens, do not be surprised. Rather, be joyous that you are counted worthy to suffer dishonor for His name (Acts 5:41).
Then again, Christians can become misfits in another sense of the word. When you are a believer seen reading your bible, and yet you will not give up your seat for the needy right before you, you are a misfit. When you compete ruthlessly in your corporate climbing, and refuse to stop to land a helping hand to someone clearly in need for fear that your progress will thus be hindered, you are a misfit. When you are a leader in your place of work, and as a Christian leader you fail to consider the welfare of those who work with and under you, you are a misfit. Christians who are neither friendly nor gracious in their speech or demeanor when they should be, are misfits (Colossians 4:5-6; 1 Timothy 4:12). When you are a leader at your church and you run the business of God’s church as if it were solely yours, you are a misfit. When you clearly see your own church body struggling over divisive issues that do not glorify God, and you choose not to respond to God’s unction upon you, you are a misfit. Such are the misfits in the kingdom family of God!
The definition of the word “misfit” clearly cuts both ways. So, are you a misfit where God has placed you now? If so, what kind of a misfit do you fall under? What next? O, that we may be misfits that pleases our Lord Jesus!