Made by a German company that’s been around since the 1700s, a particular sandal became popular with the rise of the hippie movement in the sixties and seventies in the U.S.— Birkenstocks. They appealed to “hippies, academics, and others interested in a more bohemian lifestyle,” and they were nicknamed “Jesus Sandals.”
Think about the way people reacted to the hippie movement a half-century ago. The fads and trends were unsettling to society. America was still fairly conventional and largely conservative. Most people, including pundits, preachers, and presidents, railed against the hippies as being contemptuous and scandalous. Much of the criticism was justified. The last thing any society needs is free sex, hallucinogenic drugs, open nudity, and disrespect for authority. It’s hard for a nation to see its children turning on, tuning in, and dropping out.
What was shocking at the time has, across the decades, become routine. It’s interesting how change evolves in a culture. The scandalous gradually becomes commonplace; the innovations become their own traditions; the shocking becomes the stereotyped. Today if a man’s hair is long or someone’s jeans have holes—well, who cares? It’s considered fashionable. Acoustic guitar music—once railed against in certain corners—is now popular in churches everywhere, along with drums, praise songs, and, in many cases, pastors in denim. And as for sandals? They’re in every wardrobe.
The Countercultural Christ
I believe one of the reasons the “Jesus Movement” broke out among the countercultural young people of the 1960s is because these disillusioned youth identified with the sandal-shod stranger of Galilee. Jesus was unconventional. He and His followers defied the establishment. They lived a simple lifestyle, and they had simple ways of expressing their faith. They ate with sinners, cared for Gentiles, tended to the needs of the unclean and unwell, disregarded the societal maze of Sabbath rules, and preached a message of peace and love.
People in our Lord’s day were scandalized by the simplicity of His life. They couldn’t understand the nature of His godliness, the practicality of His teachings, or the power of His touch. The common people embraced His message, but the authorities didn’t know what to do with Him. In the end, they rejected Him; and His death was something from which people diverted their gaze.
His Peculiar People
According to the Bible, those who follow in our Lord’s footsteps must embrace “the offense of the cross” (Galatians 5:11). Peter warned that our friends will think us strange because we don’t live as they do (1 Peter 4:4). He called us pilgrims and sojourners (1 Peter 2:11). Jesus said we are not of this world (John 15:19). As Christians, we’re like people from another realm, stationed on this planet as sojourners on special assignment, tasked with finishing the work He’s given us to do.
Christianity is, by its very nature, countercultural. Think about it. Reading the Bible is countercultural. Going to church is countercultural. Abstaining from immoral sex is countercultural. Witnessing for Christ is countercultural. Displaying grace goes against the tenor of our times, as does forgiveness, marital fidelity, and embracing biblical values for every area of life and society.
We are “peculiar” people. The apostle Paul wrote, “[Christ] gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14, KJV). Peter said, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9, KJV).
There’s nothing wrong with being “peculiar” in the right way. It provides a powerful witness. It’s always exciting to be a Jesus Person, to count the cost, take up our cross, and follow the Savior. Never get over the joy of following Christ. The Jesus Movement didn’t begin in the 1960s. It’s as old as the Bible, its legacy is the Gospel, and its original band of sandal-clad followers bore names like Peter, Paul, James, John, Andrew, and Matthew. Make sure your name is on the list too.
We don’t have to wear sandals to share our simple, straightforward commitment to Christ. We have a Book in our hands, a Savior in our hearts, heaven in our future, and feet that are shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace as we follow in His pathway, walk in His steps, and pass it on.
Dr. Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God and senior pastor of
Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California.
For more information on Turning Point, go to
 Margo DeMello, Feet and Footwear: A Cultural Encyclopedia (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO 2009), 39.
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