The phrase ‘We are called to be in the world but not of it’ often circulates around Christian circles.
The notion that our purpose is to set ourselves apart is one that seems to be at the core of Christian ideology. I truly believe we are called to live in a way that is ‘Christ-like’ because we carry his name in our identity as CHRISTians and there are times when this ultimately means standing out but I can’t help feel unsettled by the idea of rejecting completely all that’s deemed ‘wordly’.
We live in a broken world. It’s hurting bad, it only takes a glimpse at the news to realise that. So yes, we set our eyes on things above but let’s not allow our hearts to become closed to the need around us. We are called to love people and love the world.
So, how do we do that?
I often feel Christians are desperate to not fit in, to prove themselves different in some way, whether that be by pretending that they don’t care about money or are never angered by others. Let’s never allow an ‘us/them’ complex to appear and create a separation between ‘Christians’ and ‘non-Christians’. Remember that the only difference is that we know Jesus. We know his relentless, unfailing love, we carry his grace so our responsibility is simply to reveal that to others- to whole heartedly love the world, not condemn it, not mock it and above all not bury our heads in the sand when it comes to the world’s problems as if it doesn’t concern us because ‘it doesn’t have anything to do with us.’
There seems to be a tendency to think ‘Alcohol, drugs, sex, that has nothing to do with me, it doesn’t concern my life,’ but when we are called to be God’s hands and feet and love this world how can the things affecting it not concern us?
We sometimes find ourselves in situations that are uncomfortable, awkward and challenging but we won’t be of any use if our first response is to get out of there ASAP. After all, in a completely pitch black room even the smallest flicker of light is easily visible- you have no idea the impact your love for Christ and others is having on those around you.
Loving doesn’t mean conforming
Romans 12:2 ‘Do not conform to the patterns or this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind’
Jesus showed grace and acceptance to the sinner, empathy to the broken-hearted and patience to the cruel, the weak, the outcast, the cheat, the liar and the thief; Jesus didn’t love the sin but he loved the sinner.
There may be ‘patterns’ in this world that you feel aren’t healthy but just because you choose not to partake in them yourself it doesn’t make you a ‘better’ person than the person who does. We all fall short, we all struggle with temptations, we all experience trials, we are all human.
This mentality is so important at Uni. You might feel surrounded by situations and behaviours that make you uncomfortable but I can’t stress enough that loving what is ‘wordly’ doesn’t mean you have to join in with what is ‘wordly’, it simply means taking a humble position, having an attitude of ‘I don’t want to do that, but someone else does and that’s ok. I am going to love and support them without judgement’.
The bible warns against loving the world more than God, not against loving the world.
So let’s stop approaching what is ‘wordly’ with condemnation and ridicule but instead an open, generous heart. We can still love this broken, hurting, at times frustrating and heart-wrenching world with conviction when we put God first, praying and pursuing his will for this planet.
(P.S Check out DesiringGod’s David Mathis’ thoughts on the ‘in but not of’ mentality here)