As I survey the thousands of people at a volleyball tournament in Indianapolis, Indiana where my Fiancé is an assistant coach of a girls club team, I sit and consider what it means to be a Christian in this world but not of it.
How much of our resources, time, and energy are dedicated to the things of this world? How many people in this huge stadium are actual believers? How many are on the broad road leading to hell? Is the gospel being displayed? Are we being light in our dedication to this?
This subject feels tricky for me. I know that as Christians we should desire to be light in the darkness of the world, share the gospel, and love people as Christ loved us. We are called to be so different because of Christ’s love for us that the people of the world would recognize that we are not the king of our lives, God is.
In some ways, this looks like a very radical life that ostracizes us from the world because ideally, if we weren’t such sinners, we would see everything in life as fleeting and worthless compared to God. This doesn’t inherently make anything bad but it points to just how much more valuable God is. If we viewed wealth and prestige, power and respect as worthless because of how great and glorious God our Father is, we would be quite a bit different.
The problem is it feels more like the Puritans idea of being a city on a hill than to really be in the world. The Puritans wanted to be an example for the rest of the world in how they lived, so the world would see the differences and how good things are and then convert to Christianity themselves. Or maybe it had nothing to do with converting people but simply to just live in the way they believed would allow them to live the most righteous way possible. Regardless, they believed they were in the world because they were alive and living according to the Bible. While it sounds good, you can argue that while the Puritans were not living or treasuring the things of the world, they were not living in it either, as God’s Word commands us.
So what am I getting at? You can see in history how certain groups viewed the way God would have them live and you can see the ways their plans worked or failed. They did not view being in the world as interacting with unbelievers and loving them. Yet we know that Christ absolutely did interact with unbelievers and love them. We can take from the life of Christ that being in the world means being a light shining brightly on the top of a hill, but doing it amidst the world and not in isolation from it.
On the flip side, how often do we see Christians getting lost in the desires of our sinful flesh and the world, forgetting about the bigger picture of how God calls us to live? I would argue, all the time.
In light of that, we know we must be careful because our flesh is weak but we can only ever be in the world and interacting with people if we are among them. We can only love people we are interacting with.
Luke 6:32 says, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.” The call is clear for Christians to love and care for the Church but potentially more importantly, we are to love those who don’t love us back or who are even fighting against us. In this, we can show people that the things of this world which globally seem to be so important, pale in comparison to how valuable God is and how important our relationship with Him is. The most we can do is to show that the most precious thing we have, our own life, is not more important than our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Let’s take it back full circle now to the original questions. Is it worth it to spend our money, devote our time, resources, and energy to the many differing events of this world? Are we really shining a light in the dark in those areas of our lives or are we simply polluting the darkness further? If one relationship is formed with an unbeliever in the countless hours at the gym, driving kids to and from practice, interacting with other families and kids, is it worth it? Is a difference being made?
Yes. Absolutely yes, because we cannot influence people with the gospel unless we are among them. And that being our calling as Christians, we must act likewise. We must do it carefully and in prayer, because we recognize the depth of our depravity but with God at the forefront of our mind, it is exactly where he wants us.
Also, while the world also understands this to an extent, there is an enormous sacrifice made as a parent for your children for these kinds of things. I suppose not being a parent myself plays a factor in my questioning because parents would be aware of truly how much of a sacrifice it is. Even this kind of sacrifice is a beautiful picture of selflessness that Christ showed the world and it creates all kinds of opportunities to share the gospel.
All these thoughts lead me to consider how important it is that we regularly ponder these kinds of questions. It would do us a lot of good, when we are driving to and from work in bumper to bumper traffic, when we hear the roar of thousands of people cheering at a sporting event or concert, or when you think about there being 7.4 billion people in the world, to have thoughts cross our minds about the large portion of these individuals who do not know Jesus Christ as their savior and are unsuspectingly walking into eternal damnation.
It will keep our hearts soft to the reality of depravity in the world and our own lives, and refocus our minds on God and His glory.
So what does it mean for You to be in the world but not of it every day?