2001-06-23 - In the World, but Not of It
(Mat 9:10-12 NASB) And it happened that as He was reclining at the table in the house, behold many tax-gatherers and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, "Why is your Teacher eating with the tax-gatherers and sinners?" 12 But when He heard this, He said, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.
I admit this saying isn't too difficult for me, because snobbery has always been a pet peeve of mine! Sometimes though, we have the idea that we shouldn't have any non-Christian friends. Or we shouldn't go to "secular" places, like certain movies. I have been told I shouldn't go to a secular university. But I have seen God use me there. For example, a classmate once said to me that I reminded her of going to church, that she knew something was missing from her life, and that was it. We are to be the salt and light for the world, and if we are not out mingling with the world, how will we share the life-and-death message of the Gospel with them?
(Mat 5:13-14 NASB) You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. 14 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
To be sure, it's a balancing act. There are some "shoulds" that "should" be in our lifestyle, e.g. we should not go to x-rated movies. And we should not let non-Christians influence us; rather, we are to influence them. But when we start getting into "shoulds," we can easily slip into legalism, and alienate ourselves from the people who most need our message of Christ's love. Most Christians are reached not by tracts given by a stranger, but by the consistent witness of a friend. There are many ways God can use us to draw people to the Gospel. By treating respectfully the people we do business with. By listening to an agnostic friend who is going through a divorce. By discussing a movie (i.e. "Titanic") with a friend, including things that agree or disagree with Christian beliefs. For example, I watched a Jeff Bridges movie once, about a man who couldn't forgive himself for making an off-the-cuff remark that caused someone to kill himself. It was a sad movie; the protagonist spent his entire life trying to make up for his mistake. It struck me that if the man had been Christian, he could have found release from the guilt, and God could use the situation for His purposes. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit and a little creativity, we can bring Christianity into most any discussion. So think twice before you avoid certain people or places. Jesus was out in the world, where people lived, worked, marketed and discussed. He didn't isolate Himself, and neither should we.
Dear Lord, please help us to achieve that balance, of separating ourselves spiritually but not physically from the world. In Jesus' name, amen.