Several years ago, my then-nine-year-old daughter asked me why our family was different. She had observed that we behaved differently than all the other families on our block, and she wanted to know why we were not "normal."
Most people want to be accepted by their peers. This is a natural and powerful human trait, and it is perhaps strongest in our children. They want to be considered as a normal part of the "tribe." Adults can mature into recognizing the value of being "different," but for children this can be very difficult.
When I heard my daughter's question, I immediately had compassion for how she felt. Having grown up in a Sabbath-keeping church, I was keenly aware from a relatively young age that I was "different" from most of the other children around me. When I started attending public school, I quickly learned that going to church on Saturday was "not normal." For most of my schoolmates, "church" automatically meant Sunday, not Saturday.
Nor was it "normal" that our family did not observe Christmas (a holiday not found in the Bible, as readers of this magazine will recognize; if you would like to learn more, read our free booklet, The Holy Days: God's Master Plan). Nor was slipping away in late September or early October to spend eight days with my family at something called the "Feast of Tabernacles." To me, the Feast was wonderful. But, to my classmates, it just sounded strange, maybe even dangerous.
Because of the seventh-day Sabbath, I never played in Little League games on Saturday, and I would not go to Friday night football games. Yet these activities seemed nothing but "normal" to my schoolmates.
Looking back, though, when I consider how drastically American society has changed over the last 20 or 30 years, I realize that my classmates and I took a lot for granted; much that we all considered "normal" back then is far from normal today.
When I was a teenager, single-parent families were becoming more common, but nobody seriously questioned the ideal of the intact two-parent family, headed by a father and a mother. Today, however, "social justice warriors" are trying to push a new agenda, to impose a "new normal" on society.
You do not need to take my word for this. Just look at prime time television. There was even a short-lived 2012 series on NBC, The New Normal, that epitomized all of this. The series was billed as a comedy, but consider its premise: Two homosexual men and a surrogate mother decide they are a family. One of their children has "two daddies" and a surrogate mother; the other has two adoptive fathers plus an absent Dad we never see. This "comedy" poked fun at traditional family values, while promoting the idea that people can define "family" any way they like. In the midst of this, the series featured one character, the grandmother, whom NBC publicists called "small-minded"—intolerant and even homophobic—for espousing values that most of society would have taken for granted just 20 or 30 years before.
Comedy? Such an assault on the family is not funny.
With all of this in mind, I was able to help my daughter understand the consequences of being "normal" in today's society. Even on our little street, it was normal for the neighbor children to be missing a parent through divorce or abandonment. It was normal for kids to be running around late at night, unsupervised, getting into all sorts of trouble because there was not a mother, father or grandparent who cared enough about what their children were doing.
Some may be surprised to learn that God foresaw this problem long ago. He inspired the Apostle Paul to write a letter to the young minister Timothy, describing the conduct that would be considered "normal" in the years leading up to Jesus Christ's return. Ask yourself how well this describes the typical attitudes around us today: "But know this, that in the last days perilous ["dangerous" or "difficult," New English Translation] times will come: for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form ["appearance." ESV] of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!" (2 Timothy 3:1–5).
Paul understood that, in the last days, people would be selfish and arrogant, quick to brag of their importance. Children would be disrespectful to parents. People would not show gratitude, and would be unthankful for the good things in their lives. They would lack self-control and be very proud of themselves.
In summary, they would love only themselves, and would create a society in which outflowing Christian love, and obedience to God, would be absolutely abnormal! To desire the label "normal" in our day is to desire to be the kind of person that most of us, if we are honest with ourselves, do not like to be with!
In this current age, it is not normal to keep the seventh-day Sabbath or observe the Feast of Tabernacles and the other annual Holy Days. It is not normal to strive to obey God and live by the example Jesus Christ set for His followers. But in the very near future, this world is going to change dramatically.
God inspired the prophet Isaiah to record this wonderful prophecy: "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this" (Isaiah 9:6–7). Notice also these words from Zechariah: "And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, on them there will be no rain" (14:16–17).
Together, these Scriptures paint a wonderful picture. God will soon rule the whole world, and He will expect everyone to do as He says. Observing His weekly and annual Sabbaths may not seem normal to most people today, but the time is soon coming when all nations will keep the Feast of Tabernacles, the seventh-day Sabbath, and all of God's laws, which Jesus Christ came not to abolish, but to fulfill (Matthew 5:17). Selfish human attributes will be replaced by humility, respect, thankfulness and courtesy to our neighbors.
Those who have chosen, now, to go against what is considered normal—including the observance of God's seventh-day Sabbath and Holy Days—are in the vanguard of those teaching humanity what is truly normal. So, I urge you, ask God to give you the courage and the strength to go against the grain, resist conforming to what this world considers normal—and instead start living now the way of life God considers normal.