Our world is spiraling crazily out of control. Would you agree? It seems you can't look at the news without learning about something horrific that someone has done to someone else. And, society's values have become so twisted & convoluted, you hardly know which end is up anymore. Half truths & false morality are everywhere.
It's enough to make a Christian want to hide their head in the sand.
I've been thinking a lot about this issue of 'in the world, but not of it' lately and what our response should be to a world that is so sick and lost. Having grown up in & having lived in a very conservative area for my whole life, I've seen some very different responses to this issue. One common response is for those in the conservative Christian community to pull back completely from those 'of the world'. There is a real separation. And, on the occasions they need to interact with those outside their community, they will be cordial but not necessarily friendly.
Then, there are others who live a more balanced response....taking care about where they go & the influences they surround themselves with, but still reaching out to others and interacting with a genuine and warm friendliness.
Growing up I remember being taught in Sunday school class, as we neared middle school & high school age, the importance of choosing Christian friends. I also remember being warned about the dangers of having non-Christian friends....and that we should not be 'unequally yoked'.
As an adult I look back on that, and while I understand why the adults would have wanted to shield and protect us children, I question the validity of the approach. First, looking to Jesus as an example of how we should live our lives, I see that He was not afraid to interact with those that the Jewish community scorned & avoided. There's a pretty powerful statement about our expected response right there!
Then, I looked in the concordance in the back of my Bible. It's lists key words in scripture, the verse references for where those words are used, and a snippet of that verse. So, this is what jumps out at me as I look under World/Worldly.....
Psalm 50:12 - ...for the world is mine, and all that is in it
Matthew 5:14 - ."You are the light of the world...."
Mark 15:15 - ....into all the world and preach the good.....
John 3:16 - .....so loved the world that he gave his one....
Of course there are also verses that refer to the foolishness of the world and the judgement that awaits it. But, it seems clear that God's desire is for those in the world to be saved.
"...'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live'..." Ezekiel 33:11
And, how do we take a message of hope and love and mercy to the world? Not by building walls around ourselves I don't think. Wear our spiritual armor....absolutely! But, in order to truly reach those around us, we have to be there and involved, on a deep level.
We have to be willing to enter in to other people's messes. We have to be willing to get a little dirty without worrying about soiling our holy robes. When you think about those in the pit of despair and sin, who is going to be more effective in reaching them? Those who stand at the top of the pit and yell down 'You better get out of there!', or worse, just walk by & shake their heads? Or those who climb down in the pit and help the wounded soul climb back out?
I'm talking to myself here as much as anyone else. This is something I continue to struggle with. Something that is a lot easier to write about than it is to live out. And, I'll be the first to admit that I find myself making unspoken judgements about people all the time. It's so easy to look at mistakes someone else is making and shake my mental head.
To love. To really love a broken world the way Jesus loved it is so much harder. Lord help me. Help your Church.