For years, people have tried to tame me, and I’ve resisted. I’m an unashamed eccentric. I prize this reputation of being eccentric!
Conventional behavior might provide some lubricant between persons and peoples, but sometimes that lubricant can reduce one’s personal impact and compromise one’s principals. Conventional behavior also tends to stultify creativity.
Convention says, There are two things we don’t discuss: religion and politics.” But in our democratic republic, we are governed by consensus. If we don’t discuss politics, a few powerful people maintain control and all too easily they become corrupt.
So far as religion is concerned, when we talk about God and what God wants from us, we are dealing with matters of right and wrong. If we’re put in positions where we cannot declare what is right or identify what is wrong, then we are morally and ethically paralyzed.
Jews for Jesus came about because I was willing to set aside convention. Up until I was 38, I tried to uphold the dignity of my profession. When I was in public, I always wore a dark suit and a necktie. And if I was out having fun, I might wear a sport coat. Yes, I had a pair of blue jeans, but that was for gardening. I looked like a preacher; I behaved like a preacher, and people ignored me like they ignore preachers.
Then I came to the point in my life where I was willing to carry a placard that declared my faith, or wear a denim jacket that said I was for Jesus.
I started using humor in my writing. Even when it came to serious subjects, I often made my point with humor, parody, poetry. Every year, we’d get a few dozen letters saying we ought to be ashamed of ourselves for the silliness involved in our tracts. I had to get used to being scolded for our unconventional approach to matters. Some people said that they never would support us as long as ____________. (Various people filled in the blank differently.) All I can say is that I thank God for those who had the sensitivity to see what we were doing and saying.
For years, my life and ministry had fit into a groove. Let me say that a groove is nothing more than a grave with both ends knocked out. The groove that society has for you and me is a rut.
I’m not saying that eccentricity is a virtue in and of itself. And it’s good to remember that God does call us to conform. But being conformed to the image of Christ does not make us conventional—it’s what we need to keep us on the cutting edge.