Placing an order in a café recently, the server said, “You don’t eat meat? That’s weird.” I responded, with a smile of course, “Yeah, it’s way less weird to catch a beautiful creature, look into its frightened eyes, cut its throat as it struggles to get free, dismember its body, slice it in pieces, fry it up in a pan and eat it with laughter around a table with your friends as you look into one another’s eyes and give no thought at all to the whole brutal affair.”
Too much said, I know, but sometimes the words just fall out of my mouth before I can stop them.
Once a man came to my house to make a repair. He commented: “It’s weird to come into a house that doesn’t have a TV on in the background that I have to talk over. It seems oddly quiet in here.” I thought to myself, “Huh. Are we at a place where it’s just ‘normal’ to live with a constant backdrop of TV murder, lust, profanity and deceit, and it’s weird to have a quiet atmosphere where conversations between the inhabitants can occur?”
I’m not picking on TV or on the barbaric dietary plan most of the world regards as “normal.” Those are just a couple of ready examples that serve to point out how oddly abnormal the “normal” state of man happens to be.
From all appearances, it’s “normal” to make the promise, “till death do us part,” and then walk away when “I’m done” or when someone more “for me” comes along. It’s “normal” to objectify and exploit female sexuality and call it “business” or “advertising” or “entertainment.” It’s “normal” to massacre millions of living fetuses in the womb and call it “pro-choice,” or worse yet, “family planning.” It’s “normal” to create chemical concoctions that destroy health and call it “food.” It’s “normal” to hoard obscene amounts of money in banks while tens of thousands of children drop dead of starvation each day and call it “success.”
And yet the truth is, all of this supposed normality is insane and evil by any rational assessment.
I’ve got three points I’d like to offer about being “normal” and not being “weird.”
1. Be comfortable being “weird” by the world’s standard and seek God’s approval alone as your personal criterion for “normal.”
“Normal” is one of those shifting human concepts that elude stability, like trying to nail Jell-O to a wall. Who defines it? By what criterion do we measure it? And once “normal” is defined in any given culture or clique of human weirdoes, you won’t have to wait very long before it changes. “Normal” moves like the wind. You’ll never be able to keep in sync with the world’s ever-changing view of normality, coolness, beauty or success, nor should you even care to.
So stop trying.
The whole psycho edifice is sick and “passing away” (1 Corinthians 7:31, NKJV). “Deal as sparingly as possible with the things the world thrusts on you. This world as you see it is on its way out” (1 Corinthians 7:31, The Message).
I’d like to suggest that the only “normal” worth pursuing has nothing to do with “sameness” or “culture” or whatever “fashion” or “fad” the advertising agencies happen to be pushing at any given moment. To the contrary, being a “normal” human, as humans were meant to be, has everything to do with being totally “abnormal” compared to the standard of normality our sick world projects through its various media outlets. Look right past all of it and live with an entirely different orientation.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).
2. To become radicalized for God is to become normalized as a human being.
Ask yourself, Is Paul exaggerating when he says,“Of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36)? Another translation more lucidly renders the text, “All things find in Him their origin, their impulse, the center of their being” (Knox). Paul’s words only seem an exaggeration because we are so far removed from the natural state in which God originally created us.
Scripture knows nothing of life having any component that occurs without reference to God.
In actuality, only when we are completely immersed in, devoted to and consciously acting toward God, are we exercising our humanity with normality. We could say, using the modern vernacular, that anyone who is not totally “sold out” to God is “weird.” The problem is, our true identity as human beings is so foreign to our very selves that we consider anyone who is totally into God as weird, extreme or fanatical.
But the truth is, human life is essentially and necessarily spiritual.
It is, therefore, “normal” to be spiritually alive, focused and motivated, and abnormal to be anything less that totally on fire for God.
We were designed and created to be habitable temples for the indwelling of the living God (Ephesians 2:21-22), to be “filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19). And yet, it has become popular to think of life as having a spiritual “part” distinct from the other aspects of life that are secular. The word “secular” means, “not religious or spiritual in nature; not concerned with spiritual matters” (Encarta World Dictionary). People speak in terms of their “spiritual life” as if it were in some sense distinct from their “professional life,” their “family life,” their “social life,” their “secular life.”
But the distinction between spiritual and secular does not actually exist. It is an invention of the fallen human mind designed to evade God’s presence in everyday life. In fact, there is no word in the Bible for “secular.” Scripture knows nothing of life having any component that occurs without reference to God. Every aspect of life is concerned with spiritual matters, because we are spiritual beings by definition. We are always in either a positive or a negative spiritual state.
So don’t think of your relationship with God as one part of your life. Rather, think of your life as completely spiritual. Do all that you do—job, educational pursuits, relationships, life-goals, recreation—within the spiritual framework. “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Which brings us to our final and most ontological point.
3. Self-giving love is the only “normality” worth pursuing.
Our native state, pre-Fall, was one of complete other-centeredness. The human heart was made to move outward every moment of every day in vertical and horizontal deeds of selfless love.
“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16, NIV).
That’s what it really means to be human, and therefore “normal.” To the degree that we forget ourselves and live for the well-being of others and for the pleasure of God, we are “non-weird” by heaven’s standard.
Anyone who is not totally “sold out” to God is “weird.”
Everything we do is in favor of one or the other of two antagonistic principles: either selfishness or love. Paul summarizes the fallen state of humans with the word “self-seeking” and he informs us that “in the last days… men will be lovers of themselves” on a descending scale that becomes “worse and worse” (Romans 2:8; 2 Timothy 3:1-2, 13). That’s our world, and it’s not “normal,” except in the sense that we’re used to it. God fashioned humanity in His image (Genesis 1:27), to love like He loves (1 Corinthians 13). To live in God’s love is the one and only rational and sustainable mode of living there is. Its violation is the source of every wickedness and every hurt that plagues the world. When we receive Jesus as our Savior, He immediately engages in the transforming work of restoring His self-giving love to hearts and lives. In other words, He restores us to our normal state as God’s image-bearers. From that moment forward, every decision we make that reflects His love contributes to the normalizing of our humanity.
So this message is simply an invitation—no, an admonition—to be normal. That is, to throw off this world’s pressures to fit in and embrace your true identity as a child of God whose whole life is meant to be a reflection of His amazing love.