Being different is a fundamental feature of any religious commitment. Faith leads us to a different perspective on life, to different priorities, different principles, and these call us to step aside from the default behaviour of those around us. When this happens, the manner in which we go about being different is at least as important as the difference itself.
The prophet Daniel was taken away from his home and marched 1000 miles to a strange city where he knew nothing of the language, the culture or the customs. Having been identified as a young man with great potential he embarked on an intensive course of cultural transformation. He was given a new name, learned a new language and was thoroughly trained in the ways of Babylon.
However, Daniel did not want to lose his Jewish faith, and sought to be different in some significant way. So he resolved to keep to the dietary customs of his national and religious heritage. He declined the rich food and drink of the Babylonian court, and resolved to eat only vegetables, and drink only water.
The important part of this story, however, is the way in which Daniel went about this. He was polite, and courteous. He discussed the idea with his superiors, and adapted his plan to accommodate their concerns. He also proposed a trial period after which his plan could be reassessed. This was far from being a defensive or self-righteous protest.
In the decades that followed, Daniel held firmly to his dietary difference and his routine of private prayer. He did so politely and discreetly, and earned great respect for his beliefs at the highest level.
It is to be expected that people of faith will be different in some aspects of their lives, but this is not a justification for imposing our opinions or our practices on others, nor inconveniencing them in the cause of our own beliefs. We need to be helpfully different, respectfully different, self-sacrifically different and - like Daniel - politely different.