“Be in the world, but not of it.”
As Christians we’ve heard this saying over and over again, so much so that it can get watered down and become just another saying.
But the truth is, it’s far more important a concept than many Christians realize.
So what does it really mean?
A few summers ago, the old saying “Be in the world, but not of it” slipped into my mind.
It was a warm summer night. A campfire lit up the faces of young adults gathered on a Friday night. The fire crackle and the pop of bottle tops echoed throughout the summer night.
My coworkers were enjoying their Friday night with a campfire, games, and a few beers. They were enjoying themselves, but I was not. I was torn between wanting to be accepted by my peers and wanting to please God.
I knew I was in a place that did not please God.
I tried to justify my actions by telling myself I just wouldn’t drink or that I was there to make sure that no one got hurt. Though those may have been perfectly good answers for anyone else, they weren’t the answers that God wanted from me, and I knew it.
Finally, after an hour or so of others’ drunken mischief and my inner battle over the Holy Spirit’s leading, I made a choice and told everyone goodnight.
I think one of the most difficult aspects of being a Christian is balancing that idea of being in the world, but not affected by it.
How do Christians live in a world that is constantly challenging them, yet still remain faithful to God?
I think the hint is in Psalm 119:104-105, “Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
God’s already given us everything we need to navigate a world that is against Christians. By reading his word and praying fervently, we grow closer to God every day. The closer we are to God the more we know where we should or shouldn’t be.
The next problem is learning when to actually act on the Holy Spirit’s leading. That night at the campfire around people who were drinking to excess, I knew the Holy Spirit didn’t want me there. I knew I needed to leave, but for a while I didn’t. Instead I sat there and made up reasons to stay, because I wanted to be accepted by my peers.
It’s one thing to know what’s right but it’s another thing to do what’s right.
As Christians it’s crucial that we do what’s right not only for our benefit but for the benefit of the people that are looking at us. Our Christian faith isn’t always for us, but for the hurting world that’s looking for answers.
There’s a hurting world that’s looking at us, but how will they know we are Christian if we act the same way they do?
Jesus made this idea clear when he said, “You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its taste how shall it’s saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”
Sometimes this is hard to hear, but it’s important. Christ makes it clear that our job on earth is to spread the Gospel. Sometimes spreading the Gospel doesn’t always mean being full-time pastors or missionaries. Rather, it is spreading the truth that we have wherever we are.
Our community is our mission field, and our lives are our Gospel message.
You know that old saying “actions speak louder than words?” That idea applies to our Christian life. When people look at us they should see something different. Something that makes them think “how can I get that?”
If you preach the Gospel but then live the same life that everyone else lives, they’ll never believe you. They’ll never see the hope that you have lived out.
No one’s perfect. I’m speaking to myself as I write this. I understand that I have made mistakes and will continue to make mistakes as I go on in life.
But I pray that God gives me the strength to make the right choice at the right time. That the world that needs Christ could see Him through me.
Paul spoke of this very thing when he wrote Philippians 1:27-28, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.”
I pray that you, and Christians all over the world, would have the courage to leave, to stop, to not partake. It can mean the difference of life in or apart from an eternity with Christ.