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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Not of This World

One of the defining aspects of the nation of Israel was separateness. God separated out Noah and Abraham and Levi (Num 8:14) and then all Israel. They were distinct with their food and clothing customs. They were distinct with their laws. They were distinct by circumcision. Paul said that it was God's idea that they would "go out from their midst, and be separate from them" (2 Co 6:17). They were in the world, but they were to be distinct from the world.

The idea carried into the New Testament. In Jesus's High Priestly Prayer He prayed, "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." (John 17:14-15) There it is again. His request was not that we would be removed from the world, but that, not being of the world, we would be kept from the evil one in the world. You can see the same concept when Paul says, "We are ambassadors for Christ." (2 Cor 5:20) Foreigners in a strange land.

So how is it that most of us have most of our thinking and views and perceptions shaped just like the world's thinking and views and perceptions?

Take, for instance, the question of male-female relationships. As everyone know, there is no difference. Sure, everyone agrees that men and women are of equal value, but everyone mostly agrees that men and women do not have distinct roles or gender-related rules. That whole "wives submit" thing is dead and gone. Patriarchy isn't merely archaic ... it's sick and wrong.

This should bother Christians, at least those Christians who are aiming to not be of the world, but have their worldview shaped by God's views. The "wives submit" thing is not a male-created idea; it's Scripture (Eph 5:22-24; 1 Peter 3:1-6; etc.). Scripture says, "I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ." (1 Cor 11:3) It is God's Word that flies in the face of modern cultural views of gender roles when it says, "For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman's sake, but woman for the man's sake." (1 Cor 11:8-9) Now, you could get stoned (I exaggerate, perhaps, but only slightly) for saying such things in the public square today, but it's Scripture. It falls in the category of "in the world but not of the world." So why is it that to hold such a position is scandalous today ... among Christians?

Take, for instance, the question of marriage. Most people these days, Christians included, consider marriage a social convention, a concept put out by humans, sanctioned by the government, and, to be honest, both without much definition or force. Did you know that God considered it of highest priority? Did you know that God would not rest in Creation until He had completed the marriage of Man and Woman (cp Gen 1:27 with Gen 2:18-24)? Depending on your understanding, there are various sacraments that God instituted for His people. Marriage was the first. Marriage, according to Scripture, makes a man and a woman into one being (Gen 2:24; Matt 19:5; Eph 5:31). But, hey, that's okay. We can lop off body parts when we fall out of love with them, right? Christians don't debate whether divorce is okay or not; they debate how often it's okay. Maybe for adultery. Maybe for abandonment. Maybe for abuse or emotional abandonment. Maybe for pornography. Maybe for anything at all. But no one is suggesting "never". Why? Because our worldview is shaped more by the world that we are not of than by God's Word.

Just two quick examples. I'm sure if you thought for just a moment you could come up with more. Ideas about the importance of money and sex and power. Notions of how to raise children. Whether or not God's Word is actually God's Word. Oh, and how about the standard buzzwords? "Income equity" or "gender equality" or the like. Do not question any of that because those are the popular views of the world today. I'm sure you could come up with some more of your own.

It would seem to me that if Jesus said that we are not of this world and if our Savior said that the world would hate us for it, then we should be marked as people not of this world rather than people carefully and fully synchronized with it. You'd think, based on what we see in a lot of Christianity today, that we're making Jesus out to be a liar.

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