We’re called to be in the world, not of it.

We’ve been reading Dr Gene Veith’s book God at Work in our Wednesday morning group at the Green Bean in downtown York, Pa. I highly recommend this book, especially if you are interested in a fundamental understanding of the issues related to living your Christian life in the workplace.

One great point we discussed this past week was Dr Veith’s following observation: “Christians live in tension with the fallen world. And they are not allowed to diminish that tension by either retreating form the world or by uncritically embracing it. Jesus alludes to this in His great priestly prayer in John 17: 14-18: “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”

Throughout the history of the church, it has lurched from one extreme to the other. For so long  people were honored who escaped into the desert, forests, mountains, for a time those who lived on the top of poles or, sort of, scaffolds. This is clearly not Christian, not at all what Jesus taught. Sure Jesus is depicted as going off to pray somewhere, but sure enough the next day was right in the mix of the crowds. And it was not just with other Jewish people. Jesus interacted with Samaritans, Romans, Greeks, a Syro-Phoenician woman, free, slaves and no doubt others, Jerusalem was an international crossroads in His time.

Many Christians exist in an, essentially, Christian sub-culture, many have no non-Christian friends an don’t interact with any non-Christian unless it’s necessary. We look at Paul’s life and travels, from Israel to Rome and maybe even Spain. According to legend the rest of the apostles were dispersed to all the points of the new world. Biblically we are encouraged to interact with all non-Christians.

Dr Veith’s other point about “uncritically embracing” the world is also a great observation. Jesus certainly didn’t in His time, He was very counter-cultural, He was in the world to fulfill and observe the Law. He was against the Law, He did oppose those who abused, twisted the Law. Today we see the other extreme, especially in, so-called, liberal Christianity, which seems to allow itself to be dictated to by the world, regardless of what the Bible teaches.

Having said this, there seems to be this idea among Christians who do feel led to venture out into the world (which we are supposed to do), that if we are nice and sweet to everyone than they will all immediately fall in love with us/Jesus and everything will be all sweetness and spice or the other extreme, if people find out we’re Christian then we will be immediately set upon by the evil world. The latter supposition is probably closer to the truth, but neither one is really a day to day. Jesus told us: “”If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (Jn 15:18)
There’s this kind of odd idea among some Christians, that if we just say the right words, people will come around and love us and love Jesus. There is no magic set of words that people will immediately respond to in some kind of “come to Jesus” epiphany. It certainly didn’t happen with Jesus. Sure many responded to Him and what He did, but no question there were plenty of people who wanted to get rid of Jesus.

The world really does see Christians as gullible, suckers, easily led. This is the same world that will jump through hoops if you wave a few bucks in front of it, or booze, drugs, sex, the world will fall right in. Talk about gullible, Jesus is life, what the world wants is inevitable death. It’s stupid, but it is consistent, the world is all about death.

Dr Veith’s point is that as a Christian it is tough to be in the world. Jesus recognized this in His prayer. We live in this constant tension and yes sometimes we do give in to the temptations. Difference is, we’re forgiven, the world in the same circumstances, is condemned. As Christians we have to keep all this in mind. We can’t give up on the world, Jesus didn’t, He is our Lord, and we have to be faithful to His leading. We have to keep witnessing to Christ in all the areas of our life. But when we do that it is with the realization that often we won’t be “liked”, appreciated and the good works we do will often be repaid in spite and coldness. We can’t run away from the world, and we can’t affirm the world’s sinful lifestyle. We have to be faithful to Jesus’ leading and endure the world’s animosity.

We won’t be meeting this Wednesday because of a funeral, but May 14 we should be meeting the coffee shop at the corner of W King St and Beaver, 10am, welcome to park right behind the church.

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