As Christians, we know that we're often required to do things differently to everyone else. In fact, we're specifically instructed not to conform to the ways of the world (Romans 12:2), but the pull of the crowd can be hard to resist.
A lot of the time, what draws us closer to the crowd only places distance between us and God. That's why we're called to walk a different path. But going Christ's way instead of the crowd's doesn't mean that we lose out. What Christ offers us is infinitely more than we could hope for by following anyone else. Living a life that doesn't always adhere to the principles favoured by the masses becomes a lot more manageable once we accept this.
If we're in need of inspiration from those who've set themselves apart from the crowd to follow Jesus, we can always look to the disciples. The pressures that they faced to conform were greater than those that many of us have to confront today. Because they wholly trusted in Jesus and understood why it was necessary to commit to loving him more than the world, they were able to give up worldly gains in place of something much greater – a close relationship with Jesus the Christ.
Luke 6:26 - Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.
Psalm - 118:8-9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.
Matthew 7:13-14 - Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
I believe this is precisely the reason Jesus leaves his followers, the crowds, and goes off to be with God alone. This intimacy free from distractions is an empowering experience, it fortifies our soul for the hard work of remaining faithful. I am not a pious person, I don’t find separating myself in sacred words or solemn stories of feeling rescued by God personally help to strengthen me for the journey. Instead what fills me with conviction and resolve is a brief separation. Now lest that separation go on for too long I need to be aware of being with others to test what it is I have heard from the Divine. There is an echo chamber that can distort God’s voice, make it sound exactly like ours, when we spend too much time alone with God. But in these intense doses separation is a necessary experience for me, it reminds me who and whose I am.
The temptations of the world for me are less the common concern of the pious; lying, cheating, immortality, drunkenness, etc… The true temptation for most of us is to swayed by the world’s materialism, the search for popularity and the endless need to fill up our weak self-esteem with compliments, whether they are offered with sincerity or not. To look externally to others to tell us nice things about ourselves seems like an impossible quest, we will never get enough. Instead when I separate myself from the crowd I see and hear and feel what is necessary to feel deeply happy, that is to connect who I am to whom I am called to be. By stepping into my mission, which really Christ’s mission, I am ignoring the other voices around me, listening only to that still small voice. When I hear that voice, and not the world’s clamor for more, more, more…I feel more settled, more assured and more complete. What else could I possibly want?