"'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.'" Deuteronomy 4:6
From the beginning of their being a nation, Israel was to understand that pursuing the works of the Law -- not unto salvation, but as the outworking of it -- would make her stand out among the nations. Moses promised that, as Israel kept the commandments and statutes of the Lord, the nations around them would be fairly astonished at what they saw, and would regard them as a "wise and understanding people." Solomon proved the truth of this promise during the early days of his reign (1 Kgs. 10). Toward the end of the Old Testament the prophet Micah declared that the impact of God's people living by God's Law would not only capture the attention of the unbelieving world, but would actually attract others to seek that way of life for themselves (Mic. 4:1-5). Jesus, Who completely fulfilled the Law and commanded us to follow Him, said that, as we did so, we would be like a city set on a hill, a light for all the world to see (Mt. 5:13-16). The message is consistent throughout Scripture: live by and walk in the good works of God's Law, and you will stand out before the watching world.
But when we minimize the role of the Law in the life of faith, or ignore it altogether, and when we reduce faith from fruitfulness in good works to feeling good about ourselves in the name of the Lord, then we end up with a situation such as Ron Sider describes in his book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience. Not only do we not stand out, but we are so much like the people in the unbelieving world around us as to be practically indistinguishable from them. The Church today is not that which is depicted in Psalm 48: a towering haven of holiness and beauty, the joy of the whole earth, a force for righteousness from which all her enemies flee in terror, a people so close to the God they worship and serve as to be practically identifiable with Him -- His Body. We are a people on the margins of society, scorned by intellectuals, academics, and pundits, morphing and warping like chameleons in an effort to appeal to our increasingly indifferent neighbors, and awash with the flotsam and jetsam of materialism and pop sensuality. All in an effort to be relevant, all the while emerging into newer and more troubling forms of irrelevance.
Do we want our neighbors to notice us? Let's stop trying so hard to be just like them, and begin concentrating more diligently on being just like our God.