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What Does It Really Look Like For Christians To Be In The World, But Not of It?

I’ve spent my life in the American version of church, singing the songs, going to the gatherings, adhering to the right doctrine, and saying all the right things to appear holy. For many years, I did my best to be a “good Christian” by what I avoided. It’s the most exhausting thing I ever did in my entire life. American Christianity has turned more into a comfortable lifestyle of easy laws than a true passion for the heart of Christ. It’s disturbing, to say the least.

In his critique of the American Christian sub-culture, David Platt addresses our silly understanding of holiness and being “good” in his book called “Radical”:

“When we gather at the building (church), we learn to be good. Being good is defined by what we avoid in the world. We are holy because of what we don’t participate in (and at this point we may be the only organization in the world defining success by what we don’t do).” – David Platt, “Radical”

How many times did I hear “don’t listen to this”, “don’t do that”, and so forth, only to think that what I avoided made me good? Sure, there are many things in this world that we should avoid. I’m not advocating living a life without boundaries. What I am suggesting is that we’ve missed the point of following Jesus.

What if followers of Jesus were know for their love, not their dogmatic opinions?

What if Christians lived in generosity, not in constant comfort and the false ideas of American security?

What if we stopped avoiding people who don’t believe the same things as us? What if we intentionally befriended others who hold different beliefs, not just to convert them to our ways, but also to gain a heart of understanding?

I was homeschooled. Talk about a weird, bizarre culture in the late 80’s and 90’s. Family’s that avoided anything and everyone who was in the “secular” world. Rock music? No! It’s of the world! Yet, all the same, classical music composed by literal psychopaths and sexually promiscuous composers from different eras was somehow overlooked…Oh! And don’t make friends with those who aren’t “saved”; only make friends with good Christian kids at church. Wear the right clothes, say the right things, pray for an hour (at least), and make sure you never challenge the leaders in the church, even if they’re wrong.

Where did we even come up with this garbage? Oh yeah…Humanity has always liked the appearance of holiness through rules, regulations, and laws that we made up. From the beginning of time, the Pharisee has lived within the darkest corners of the human soul, desperate to pat ourselves on the back for being awesome. Somehow loving people who are different than us was left out. Making friends with non-believers became a sin (this makes Jesus a terrible sinner). Being involved in the culture, not separate from culture, was frowned upon, not emphasized. Ridiculous.

When we think of holiness, we often think of what we avoid, not who we’re becoming.

What if we began seeing the journey with Jesus as a constant investment into the lives of others who don’t believe the same things as us?

What would it look like if Christians participated in the conversation of modern culture, not separating from anything that scares us?

Who would you become if you actually lived like Jesus, serving the poor, the misfits, the broken, the “sinners”, and the people who look nothing like “good” Christians?

As I grow older and continue to seek the heart of Jesus, the more I am learning to care more about becoming more like Christ in his love, his mercy, his grace, his generosity, his compassion, and his desire for everyone to be reconciled to God. The Pharisee within me (which has always existed) is dying. I’m thankful for that transformation.

Good doctrine is important, but without love and mercy, it’s a pointless endeavor.

Who are you becoming and who do you desire to become?

2 Comments

  1. RJ RJ

    I can totally relate to your experience growing up. I was also sheltered and was advised to avoid people who do this and that, etc. After reading the book “What’s so Amazing About Grace” by Philip Yancey, I realized that many of us need to show grace as we are nothing if not for God’s grace. Legalism in modern Christian culture is not unusual hence sometimes it’s not easy to be just “you” at church, hence some people avoid “Christians” and the church.

    • Yes, exactly! We put on a facade of sorts. And I totally agree that we must show grace, as grace has been shown to us.

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