The world has played us since day one. As an infant, we played with a toy that taught us to put shapes into holes. There was a sense of awe that we received as the shape fit into the right hole. While this toy exists to teach spatial reasoning, it also teaches us the joy of fitting in. Subconsciously, we begin to desire to be that shape, hoping that there is a hole, a place, a niche, that we fit into as perfectly as that shape. This desire is seen throughout school, especially in the pubescent years, mainly in middle school. The desire for to have a clique of friends, having a club, being on a team is extremely important. One of the biggest fears seen is anything that might risk the student’s ability to fit in.
We see the same thing in college. As freshmen arrive to a college campus, the majority away and alone for the first time, this middle school mentality comes back. After all, it never left. This fear was always inside of all of us. We all have the fear of being out the outside, the fear of becoming a misfit.
The term “misfit” is something seen today with a sense of high disgust. The minute the word enters our minds, no matter the circumstance, we abhor the thought of being identified at the thought of it. We try to fit into the constraints society has built for us, for the traditions of generations past, into our own mentalities. The idea of failing our lifelong pursuit of finding our niche brings us to our knees. However, as Christians, this is where we should live.
The word “misfit” means “a person whose behavior or attitude sets them apart from others in an uncomfortably conspicuous way.” It is one of the few words that hasn’t changed since it was introduced in 1823. When we look at the word “christian,” we see that it did not hold it’s now natural esteem. In fact, “christian” was a word used in mockery. It was used for those who talked about Jesus, calling them “little Jesus’.” The amazing thing is that this term, something meant for harm, has become a term of distinguishment. At one point, however, “Christian” and “misfit” were seen in the same light. Strange.
After identifying both terms, let’s take a look at the scriptures the term misfit. Using the definition, there are two characters whose lives reflect the beauty of being a misfit.
Daniel is a beautiful example of being a misfit. His behavior caused problems until the day he died. We see Daniel rebel against the Babylonian constructs of society and culture as early as in 1:8, when the verse begins with “But Daniel…” Daniel first rejects the king’s choice of food, incidentally questioning the king’s judgement of everything. By obeying the Word of God, specifically the commands on what to eat and what not to eat, we see Daniel take an uncomfortable position that is so outside of society’s rules that he not only risked his life, but the lives of his friends and his supervisor. Later, we see Daniel break the constraints of society by directly telling King Nebuchadnezzar the meaning of his dream, not concerning himself with offending his majesty (Chapter 2). Daniel’s misfit character, even impacted his friends (as misfits draw near to one another, like a pack of sheep). Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah all fought against the laws of the king, refusing to bow to the golden idol of King Nebuchadnezzar (Chapter 3).
Even in Daniel’s older age, he was a misfit. The famous story of “Daniel and the Lion’s Den” happens when Daniel approximately in his 80’s. At eighty years old, Daniel refused to change. As with King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniels found favor with King Darius, to the point where his co-workers were conspicuously uncomfortable. They plotted his death, knowing that Daniel would not change his “strange” behavior. As predicted, Daniel did not, but he did not die as expected either (Chapter 6).
Throughout Daniel’s life, we see the power of not fitting in. Daniel took pride in not being a Babylonian, to the point where other people desired to be more like him. His attitude and actions of worshiping God literally changed a nation, something that could not be done if he tried to fit into the societal standards of an idolatrous nation.
Peter is seen as one of the largest heroes of the faith. His boldness encouraged the spreading of the Gospel throughout the world. He is seen as the foundation of the church, which is completely true. However, Peter was not always a preacher or a teacher. He started in a very different area of life.
The first time we meet Peter, he isn’t even called Peter. His name is Simon. Simon and his brother, Andrew, were both fisherman (Matt 4:18). This by itself teaches a few things about Simon and Andrew. Neither of them were scholars, which is proved by the fact of them being “blue collar” workers. They both failed the test to become a priest, so they followed in the trade of their family, which happened to be fishermen. We also recognize that they both wanted an escape from their lives. The reason this can be inferred is that the minute a stranger (Jesus) walks by and calls them to be “fishers of men,” they “immediately” left their nets and followed Him. Not question who Jesus is, or his goal, or even what “fishers of men” meant, they followed. When we read this, we automatically see this as a rational decision to make, knowing that Jesus is the Messiah. However, neither of them knew this for quite some time. In this instance, Jesus is “just a man.”
We also see that Peter’s desperation comes from a lack of skill. In John 21, we see that Peter tries to fish, and does not catch any. Now, this does not make him a bad fisherman, but what happens when Jesus does lead to questioning of Peter’s skill as a fisherman. Jesus simply suggests to cast their net on the other side of the boat. This seems like common sense. When you go fishing, and you fail on one side or in one location, you try other locations. However, Peter did not think this way. It actually took a carpenter (Jesus’s trade) to tell a fisherman how to do his job.
Now showing that Peter did not fit in at all to society’s ways, we see how God used him. Peter was the spokesperson of the disciples. He was called to preach to those who the Jews generally hated (the gentiles). Peter stood out, and it was through his uncomfortable behavior that we see the gospel shine. Even at the time of his death, he was refusing to fit into society’s standards. Peter was crucified, however he refused to be crucified in the manner of the Christ. Thus, Peter was crucified upside down.
Christianity does not fit into society. Let’s be honest. As followers of Christ, we essentially observe the teachings of a homeless man who was brutally murdered over 2,000 years ago. In following a man who society casts out and tries to continue to do so to this day. Jesus didn’t pick the winners to work with. He didn’t choose the “jack of all trades.” He chose those whom the world ignored, the ones who didn’t belong. This teaches us a lot. Jesus hasn’t called us to belong to anything but him. As Christians, we really won’t be able to truly belong to anything else. We might fit in a little. We might be able to make something work, faking it and fooling everyone. But we will know that we don’t fit in. Jesus even tells us this in John. “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” We’re taught here, that not only will we not fit in, we will be cast out. Stop trying to fit into a box, because the box is not open to us. But, when we recognize that we don’t fit into this world, we recognize that we’re not looking for a whole to fill. We just dive into the ocean of grace, something much bigger than any of us. But, this is the way it’s supposed to be.