Living Bravely: Part 1: Social Distancing: The Jesus Way
I want to go back to the days when Corona was just a Mexican beer.
The last few weeks it seems information and news is our solace of choice. But in tuning in to the barrage of information from the world, we tune out the peace of God from heaven. Ok, well at least I have, I won't speak for you.
Social distancing has become vogue, and rightfully so. We are trying to keep our personal health while not jeopardizing the health of those most vulnerable and to stop the spread of the virus. Watching my daughters fiercely protect their beloved Grandmother has provided many moments of immense pride while simultaneously heartbreaking episodes of them desperately missing being with her. But do you realize, that Jesus was asking us to social distance long before it became a buzzword a month ago? To keep a different kind of health? For a much more important reason?
As christians, Jesus told and taught us that while we are in the world we are not to be of the world. We are to live set apart from worldliness. Distanced from the world and all that the world believes and values. To Him, worldliness was not sophistication, refinement and elegance but living opposite of God's kingdom system.
That can be an excruciating philosophy to grasp. Coming from a girl who was all about square footage, clothing labels, car emblems and impressive career titles you can say the learning curve for me was very steep. I still struggle with it. Being deeply driven and appreciative of beautiful things in fashion and home decor, I can get lost on true needs versus frivolous wants. But I have learned that worldliness is not so much a matter of activity as of attitude. God knows our hearts and what we love more than Him.
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:15-17
Why would God put us on this magnificent planet, with seeming abundance, beauty and usefulness surrounding us, and then ask us to live set apart from it? The "world" referred to in the above verse refers to an invisible spiritual system opposed to God and Christ. It is not referring to nature or people. We should appreciate the beauty and usefulness of the earth God has made as he so richly gives us all things to enjoy (1Timothy 6:17). We should also love each other. The "world" is Satan's system for opposing the work of Jesus on earth. Warren Wiersbe says it is "very opposite of what is godly, holy and spiritual." Scripture clearly tells us several times that Satan is the "prince of this world" (John 12:31), he has an organization of evil spirits working with him (Ephesians 6:11-12) and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19). The world is Satan's system.
When Jesus was here teaching, the people of "this world" did not understand Him, nor do they now understand those of us who trust him. This world, for a believer, is not our home and it is not our natural habitat. Think of a deep sea diver. The only reason he can go under is because he has special equipment to do so. He is not made to live or survive in the water. So too, for those of us who are saved. The only way we can be of this world is through the resources God gives us to do so: the Holy Spirit, Christian fellowship, prayer and God's word. Being a saved Christian is Jesus' kingdom system.
So what is worldly and how do we identify wrong activity or the difference between the two systems? There are two tests.
Responding to God's love (daily devotion time) and doing God's will (daily activity) are the tests of worldliness. Worldliness is a matter of the heart. Anything in a Christian's life that causes him to 1.) lose his enjoyment of the Father's love or 2.) his desire to do the Father's will is worldly and must be avoided. God calls us to live set apart, not led astray.
Living set apart means to be made holy, consecrated to Him. Christians are given a special role in life to serve Him. We are transferred from the domain of darkness to the Kingdom of Light. We are strangers to this world's system. Instead of thinking and acting like the world, we are set apart from this more common way of viewing and living life and are given a different purpose, which is to serve God and become more like Jesus. You could say that we are separated from worldliness and given new purpose in Jesus to be used by God. Our goal should not be to look like the world, but it should be to look like Jesus.
While we are physically present in the world, we are not to be part of what the world values. On the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus prays in John 17:15-16:
"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. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth."
We as christians are not on stay at home orders. Luke Lefevre says it like this: "God’s goal in setting us apart is not about taking us out of the world, but about Him taking the world out of us. By pursuing Christ, the things of the world lose their grip on us, but by trying not to look like the world we only lose sight of Christ." In other words, He wants to conform us into His image, not quarantine us from the world.
Jesus prays for us in the hours before his death. That we would be kept from the evil one and sanctified in truth, as we are sent into the world. Jesus’s true followers have not only been crucified to the world, but also raised to new life and sent back in to free others. We’ve been rescued from the darkness and given the Light not merely to flee the darkness, but to guide our steps as we go back in to rescue others. The mission: advance the gospel while social distancing from the world's system. Face mask optional. Oh, and turn off the news!
Tomorrow we will look at the the three snares of worldliness, lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh and the pride of life.