“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” ~Romans 12:2
This is a touchy subject for many Christians. We like to keep ourselves separate from worldly, ‘heathen’ activities. We don’t like to go where spiritual filth and grit might rub off on us. Sure, we might pray for the homeless, or go somewhere like that specifically to minister, but when we aren’t doing planned ministry we avoid those places. We avoid people on subways who look different than us. We like our righteous, Christian, bubble and the spikes on that person’s hair might well pop it so we will keep our distance, thanks very much. We are fine preaching and ministering, but when we’re off the pedestal, brushing elbows with someone living in sin is as disdainful to us as a friendly chat with the devil himself.
I’ve been asking myself tonight if this is really what God intended for us. Jesus started His day in prayer, alone with His Father, grounding Himself in God’s word before starting out His day. But His day didn’t involve Him seeking like-minded people necessarily. There were no like-minded people. His day consisted of going to the worst places and shedding light on darkness. His day consisted of reaching people who were living in sin (not necessarily ill or down-on-their-luck people either), and giving them a change of heart. He shook everything that could be shaken, and He broke chains.
The thing is, He didn’t do it by staying in a temple, or staying in isolated prayer. He started in prayer, and moved in the world.
I think on some level we do a disservice to Jesus by separating ourselves so much. Yes, we are not of the world. We don’t have to be. Neither is the sun, and it still casts a more visible, brighter light than any earthly glow. We don’t have to be of the world in order to move in it and walk around in it. I think that’s the cool thing about having the Holy Spirit inside of us. We don’t have to view sin from afar, and then say ‘wait hold that thought while I find a church real quick’, and pray it through. With the Holy Spirit inside of us, we can walk amongst sin, and stay grounded in the righteousness God intended us to live by. The sun is not of the world, but it casts light on every part of it. In a lot of ways I feel like we’re called to do a similar thing. Not be of the world necessarily – sin is in the world, and our true citizenship is in Heaven. But we aren’t in Heaven yet. We were planted here. In order to bloom, we need to embrace where we are, without worrying about getting our hands (roots?) dirty.
I don’t have the answer to what the exact balance should be. I do know that Jesus walked among the ‘least of these’ without fear. I also know that we are inherently sinners. Yet, God has chosen to put Himself, in the form of the Holy Spirit – our perfect Advocate and Counselor – right inside of us. We, in all our imperfection, house something that priceless and precious. It’s a miracle. God’s not afraid of getting dirty from us. He loves us and embraces us. The world may be a dirty place, but it and all it’s citizens were still created by God and He loves it no less than He’d love a utopia. So I feel like it’s not our place to treat it any differently. We do need to utilize this Counselor we’re given, and walk with it so that we can stay on the right path for ourselves. But since we are given the compass to navigate through, why not embrace where we are and see where our light gets cast?
I certainly don’t have the answers, so feel free to weigh in either as a comment or by email at email@example.com. I’d love to hear from you!