A friend of mine responded to my post on October 11, 2010 Collateral Good with a number of good insights. Among them was this: The Jews had forgotten their role as light to the nations. They turned it on its head, so that the ultimate beneficiaries of the covenant came to be seen as worthless dogs…Jesus came for the nations because Israel failed to draw the nations.
I’m often struck at how we’ve come full circle. In so many ways we have become exactly what Jesus ended up struggling against. This is one more example. How many card carrying Christians, members in good standing at any of thousands of today’s churches, feel it is their God given duty to keep themselves isolated from the world? Some denominations and independent churches even have a doctrine for this called the doctrine of separation. Some take this so far as to separate not only from the world but any Christian that doesn’t agree with them. Does this reflect the way Jesus lived? Does it reflect the whole of what he taught; not just some cherry picked verses? Does it reflect how Jesus taught his disciples to live? How would one explain Jn. 17:15-18? My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.
Yet, even many Christians who don’t hold to this as a doctrine live it out in daily life. We send our kids to Christian schools so they won’t be polluted by the world. If we socialize at all, it is with other Christians. If we have any contact at all with non-Christians, it is at work. If we do any evangelism at all it is a quick foray into enemy territory. We aren’t making relationships; we are practicing hit and run driving. It doesn’t matter if we hold to the doctrine of separation officially or if we just live it. It is what we do that counts and what most of us do is separate ourselves from the world.
Yet Paul wrote: I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat (I Cor. 5:9-11). Paul doesn’t seem to be afraid of us connecting with some pretty unsavory characters. He seems to be more concerned with us hanging around with carnal Christians; which nowadays is par for the course.
Jesus had to use the Syrophoenician woman to get the disciples to see outsiders in a positive light, as those deserving of God and his goodness. The same is needed nowadays. We need to become once again a light to the nations. The best way to do that is change our lifestyle. We have learned to use our suburban homes as fortresses or at least as circled wagons. Our electric garage doors become the modern equivalent to a portcullis.
But what did Jesus want? In his instructions as Jesus sends out his disciples he says: “So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs (Matt. 10:26-27). Jesus is whispering that still small voice into our ears today. He wants us to be fearless, to conceal nothing, to undisclose, to reveal, to speak, to proclaim. In order to do that, we need to be with people who need to hear. We need to become their friends. We need to be such good friends that they trust us and value our friendship and our beautiful alternate way of life. Our lifestyle becomes an announcement of the Kingdom. We don’t compromise who we are, we broadcast it. But we can to that from behind the portcullis.
- Bad theology aside, why do we hide from those who don’t know Christ?
- Why do you think Paul was unafraid of us connecting with immoral, greedy swindling and idolatrous people?
- Who should be getting infected by our association with the world, the world or us?
- Is our fear of the world an admission of weak faith and lack of spiritual power?