We often say that we are to be “in the world and not of the world.” And this is a very true statement. Yet, it’s not found specifically quoted as I just quoted it in the Bible. Jesus told us we are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. So, how do we do this and not become part of the world? How are we salt and light to a tasteless and dark world, without becoming corrupted ourselves? How do we raise children in a world that wants to chew them up and spit them out? How do we remain sanctified (separate) and holy…yet, not become immersed in the culture?
Great questions huh? So, what are the answers? How do we raise “Daniels” who can survive in a “Babylonian world.” How do we teach, train and equip ourselves and our children to be salt and light and yet, not be suffocated by the world? Do we just go into a “holy huddle” and never leave the safety of our homes? Do we avoid all aspects of the world at the risk of getting some of the “world” on us? What do we do?
I know that there are many ways of looking at this subject and there are many “schools of thought” on the matter. And may I be the first to admit that I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers. In fact, I’m not sure that I have any answers. But, I’ll offer some things I’m learning from Scripture that have helped me.
Jesus did indeed say that we are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. He said we should not hide our lights under a bowl. (Matt. 5:13-16). Yet, He also said to be careful that the salt (that’s us) not become contaminated or lose its saltiness because that makes us worthless. It seems like a contradiction doesn’t it? Yet, I see the world sort of like a swimming pool.
I don’t live in the pool…I’m just in and out. If the world is like a swimming pool and people are drowning in their sins…then, I see my job as a “rescuer,” who jumps in to help lead people to Christ…but, I’m back out quickly.
Jesus modeled this. He ate with publicans and sinners. He went to people’s homes and hand dinner with them…even Gentiles. He talked to women…even a Samaritan woman (unheard of in Jesus’ day) and yet…he didn’t “live” with them. He was “in and out” of their lives quickly and efficiently. He met them where they were at in their lives, but He didn’t make His home with them. Again, much like a Life Guard who jumps into a pool, rescues the one that is drowning and is then back out.
The problem with many Christians today in my opinion is that we are one extreme or the other. We are either “whole hog” with the world and swimming with them day and day out. Doing everything in the pool…living in the pool…sleeping in the pool…hanging out in the pool all the time. Or, we don’t even go near the pool. We avoid the pool like the plague. We take care of “me and mine and I’m fine.” We don’t want to associate with the people of the pool and we’ll not even go where they are. We don’t want to see them, run into them, be bothered by them or talk to them, for fear that we may actually have some of their “worldliness” rub off on us.
Jesus said in John 17:11-19
12While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. 13“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
Now look at Jesus’ own words. These are some of the last words He ever prayed on this earth while He was in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus said He kept them safe while He was with them, except for Judas, but He was going back to the Father. Yet, He wants us to have the “full measure” of joy within us. He tells us that we are not of the world any more than He was of the world. Yet, verses 15-19 are the key…
“15My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.”
Jesus was saying, Father, don’t take them out of the world, but protect them while they are in the world. I see this in the analogy of the pool like having on a wet-suit. You know the wetsuits that scuba divers wear. It keeps them from getting too cold and protects their bodies. Jesus is the wetsuit. They also have on the oxygen tanks…
…breathing the clean oxygen of God’s Word…in our case…using this analogy. Jesus said we are to be sanctified…that means “set apart for holiness,” but we still must GO! Jesus said, “GO and make disciples of all nations…” We must then, be “in the world, but not of it.”
Paul told the church at Corinth in 2 Corinthians 5:16-21:
“16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Did you see it? We are to be Christ’s ambassadors. (Verse 20). God is making His appeal through us!! We must go!! We must tell people about Jesus in the grocery store, at the gas station, at work, at school, in our families and wherever the Lord takes us. Do we avoid people? Do we run from them? No! We are called to the “ministry of reconciliation.” We are to reconcile man back to God. Why? Because Jesus came to “seek and save that which is lost.” So, what are we doing about this? Are we training ourselves and our families in the Word strong enough and well enough to be Daniels? Are we Daniels? Or have we become corrupted by the world? Are we swimming without our wetsuits and oxygen tanks?
Many are. How can we tell? Because we love the world and we are immersed in the “patterns” of this world and we have conformed to the patterns of this world.
15Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 1 John 2:15-16
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2
For most of us and our children…we are so conformed to the world that we are no longer salt or light. We follow right along with the world in what we say, do, listen to, watch, read, where we go, how we spend our money, spend our time, etc. We look just like the world. We’re swimming with the world, and we like it. No oxygen tank (the Word of God), no wetsuit.
If we want to be “in the world, but not of it,” we are going to have to be students of the Word of God. If we aren’t…and if we don’t immerse our families in God’s Word…then, we might us well throw ourselves and our children into the pool of the world with ropes tied around our feet, legs and arms…because in essence that’s what happens when we have no Bible in our lives. We’re going to drown.
This is why most young people and adults alike, for that matter, can’t be anywhere near or around anyone in the world. Because they are so anemic, spiritually, that they have no strength or self-control or fortitude to battle against the things of the world. They just get sucked in. Is that you? Is that your children? What must we do?
Check the tank (are you equipped with the Word of God)… and do you “have on” Jesus (Remember He’s the wetsuit) and, if so then, we are commanded to Go…make disciples of all nations…get in and out…just like He did with Zacchaeus
and the Samaritan woman at the well… Jesus was truly, “in the world, but not of it…”