Chameleons are fascinating creatures. There are over 200 types of chameleons, each having a variable ability to change their color to fit into their surroundings. Some are able to shift their brightness or dimness while others can change entire colors. Their eyes are independently mobile, and apparently this trait gives them ability to create two distinct images in their brains as they analyze their environment. They can change colors by changing the wavelength of light reflected off the crystals in their skin so they can blend into whatever is in their background.
Remarkable, right? From their eyes, to the crystals in their skin, to this kind of signaling and protective color change – the chameleon is so interesting that the word itself is often applied to people who are able to fit in almost anywhere. In any environment. In order to protect themselves.
It’s not really a compliment to be called a chameleon. What we usually mean when we say that is that someone does not have a strong sense of self; they don’t possess a driving force of integrity; they instead are marked by compromise. And in that sense, Christians should not – cannot – be chameleons.
We are meant to be people that don’t fit into our environments; we are meant to be those that stand apart from that environment. We are to be the salt in a tasteless society. We are to be the light in a darkened world. We, collectively, are to be the city on a hill that provides the hope of something more and different when everything else in our culture looks the same. From the way we conduct ourselves, to the way we treat each other, to the way we forgive and extend grace, we are made to be different; we are born again as new people and live as ambassadors of a different country.
Christians aren’t chameleons; in fact, if we are, then we really aren’t Christians at all.
No, we aren’t chameleons… except when we should be.
Because there are some environments we step into in which we are meant, like the chameleon, to read the room, and to take it for what it is. Here’s how Paul put it:
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited (Rom. 12:15-16).
Notice that in these instructions, Paul doesn’t pay much heed to how the Christian feels; his main concern is how the other Christian feels. I might not feel particularly joyful, and yet I am to rejoice with those who do. I might not feel particularly sad, but I am to mourn with those who are. Indeed, and overall, I should not be proud or conceited, so focused on my own emotional needs that I lose sight of those around me. I should love others enough to be able to read the room, put aside my own feelings, and respond to the environment.
We should, as Christians, take in the moment at hand and not try to change it. We should not try and talk others out of their mourning but join them in it. And we shouldn’t try and throw cold water on joy but stand next to those who are happy in the moment. And how can we do this? How can we blend into these environments, even when it means actively setting aside our own stuff?
It’s not easy, and it only comes through faith. Faith in the fact that Jesus knows how we really feel. Faith that our own emotions are not forgotten. Faith that God will take care of us. And faith that in our own moment of joy or sadness, that there are Christians around us who will do the same.
When we step into all different kinds of rooms today, friends, let’s read the room. Let’s be present in the moment. And by faith, let’s set aside our own desires in favor of others.