I grew up in a time where t-shirts, bumper stickers, and “true love waits” commitments identified Christians. “Christian” music sounded more like pop music with some lyrics vaguely about Jesus. During this era I had my Christian friends and my non-Christian friends. There was little over lap. I always felt this tension of being a Christian in general versus being a Christian around my non-believing friends. In a lot of ways I lived in a bubble; I was protected, comfortable, and looking back I’m thankful for that season. The Lord grew me, giving me a passion for him and for people during that time, but I lived in a tension of not knowing how to be in the world but not of it.
Then one day I realized that’s not how it’s supposed to be. In some ways I had made my relationship with the Lord into a safety net. I’ve found that if we don't know how to live in the world and not be worldly, we teach people to fear sin rather than to fear the Lord.
It causes us to have a merit relationship with the Lord. We measure our obedience by looking at a task list. As long as my chore list is complete, with dos and don’ts then I’m good. With a mile long to do list your defeated before you even get out of bed. This makes us completely disregard an obedient heart because we love God in exchange for acts of work to display and manmade obedience.
When we fall into living like this it is about what we can do, not about what God has done.
I’ve found these to be the results of living this way:
We make manmade walls to protect ourselves, not understanding or knowing true grace. This keeps others from experiencing true grace as well. This leaves us with a poor experience with a cheap version of grace.
We become socially disengaged with the world around us. Therefore we are unable to relate or even have conversations with others who believe differently than we do. It compromises our ability to serve and witness to others.
We become arrogant in our rules and regulations. Heaven forbid a church do something differently than we do, or even worse a nonbeliever (or a Christian for that matter) do something we don't approve of. We are shocked by sin or tragedy around us.
We compete for holiness. We try to one up each other in our "Christian" service or our to-do list for obedience.
We no longer are teachable. We must define holiness for ourselves if we are going to be held accountable for doing it on our own.
We are riding a constant roller coaster between safety and anxiety. In our narrow manmade path, we are struck with fear not knowing what happens if we step out of it.
This is still going on in our churches and communities. It’s visible in how we talk about others, our arrogance of being right and worse, our inability to have relationships with those outside the walls of our churches.
It’s easy to revert back to living in a bubble. But I know I can’t go back because of what Jesus has done in my heart. I want to actively participate in the world around me without compromising my love for the Lord or for people to know him. We need to teach people how to fear the Lord rather than fearing sin or fearing what happens if they mess up. We fear cancer. We fear divorce. We fear change. We often fear a liberal world around us. But none of these am I capable of controlling and neither are you - but The Lord is - so why fear them when we can trust a great God who not only created us, but also the world around us?
Here are some questions to consider . . .
- How do you actively choose to live as a Christian in the world around you?
- How have you being living in a bubble or safety net?
- What does it look like to be obedient while living as He has called us to in the world?
For a good sermon on being in the world but not of the world, click here.