This past weekend I flew up to Maine. My grandfather had given me a bunch of furniture and I needed to pack it in the back of a moving truck to bring it down to North Carolina. This trip gave me plenty of time to think. I found that a lot of my time was spent thinking about a chapter of the book I have said I plan on writing. Actually this topic will be more of an appendix because of its wide application. The topic is the idea in Christianity of being separate from the world. A common phrase is that Christians are to be “in the world” but not “of the world.” This principle can be derive throughout scripture.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:12-15
“If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” – John 15:19
“I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” – John 17:14-18
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God.” – 1 Cor. 2:12
“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. . . . If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, ‘Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!'” – Colossians 2:8,20
There are numerous more but I am sure you get the point.
Now, you may be asking, why are you planning on writing an appendix to a book concerning this obvious principle. The answer is simple, the principle has become perverted. I cannot say when, for I have not studied its history, but I have noticed a growing trend of Christians separating themselves from sinners. Thankfully this is not happening everywhere but it is happening in creeping ways and the philosophy behind it has infected our theologies . . . or perhaps our theologies have infected this principle.
You see, the principle is (and should remain) that our attitudes and actions be like Christ. In fact, our very being should reflect everything that Christ did and desired to do. The principle has become – do not associate in any activities that non-Christians participate in.
Non-Christians, drink alcohol, go to bars, gamble, wear torns jeans, etc.
Thus Christians need to abstain from alcohol, forsake bars, never gamble, wear khaki’s or dress clothes, etc.
Instead, in the NT we see Jesus, drinking wine, hanging out with the tax collectors, sinners, and prostitutes (probably in bar-like scenarios), cannot say for sure that He gambled – it’s a non-issue at this point, wore the clothes a carpenter could afford, etc.
It is a common misconception that you must wear your “Sunday’s Best” when you meet the Church – why? So the world can see a difference in you. That is completely anti-thetical to itself.
1) If the “world” is gathering as the Church – you have bigger fish to fry.
2) The “world” wears khaki’s, dress slacks, etc. – Christians would need to invent brand new clothing that only bonafide Christians can wear
3) Do we only care what the world sees us wearing one day a week; when we have the smallest interaction with the world?
There was a professor at SEBTS that once said we need to bring our very best to God. He was frowning upon those lazy college students who wander into chapel wearing nothing but their pajama’s. To this day, I still wonder whether or not he wears his suit when he does his morning prayers or right before bed . . .
I still need to develop this topic a little better before I write an appendix about it. But just to leave you with a thought. If you believe that we need to be separate from the world by separating ourselves from them, I want you to consider this…
The world sleeps, drinks water, drinks juice, drinks soda, drives cars, walks, runs, goes to the gym, goes grocery shopping, talks on phones, uses libraries, uses the interent, wears clothing, swims, plays, enjoys company, etc., etc., etc.
Do you hold to a position that prevents you from doing what Jesus did – interact with the world for the sake of His gospel?