Remember the old song: “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing’ through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.” What is the Christian’s relationship to this present world? Are we to settle down and make ourselves at home, or reserve our energies for that world which is to come? Is the church to concern itself with the agonies of this age or stand aloof?
One of the earliest teachings of Scripture is the Christian is different and is to live by nobler principles and higher values than those of carnal men (I John 2:15-17). But the devil is wise. As Christians earnestly seek to overcome worldliness, he will offer this apparently easy but ultimately disastrous solution: avoid the world altogether. He will tempt the church to substitute isolation for separation.
Christ spoke on the relationship between the church in the world in his great prayer (John 17:11, 15-18). In stressing the contrast between the world and the church, we must remember that Christ prayed: “Do not take the church completely out of the world. As you, Father, sent me into the world – to be involved in its problems, to be part of its agony, to be concerned about its sin, to be nailed to its cross – for these purposes send I them into the world.”
One of the early heresies of the church was that the world was not actually one but two. Two worlds! How tidy and convenient. It is an easy but wrong way out. The New Testament, in speaking of two worlds, speaks in reality of two ages: this age and the age to come, demanding that Christians prepare for eternity by following eternal standards. Paul literally says, “Be not conformed to this age” (2 Tim. 4:10). The repudiation the Christian is to make is of the values of this temporal age, not a repudiation of the people of this present world.
This is no academic discussion. The error of dividing life into two entirely separate worlds results in practical damage to the church. It encourages the false compartmentalization of life into two practical spheres, secular and sacred. God is seen as working differently in two worlds and the Christian life is presented as an adjustment to such separated living. We come to believe that God is more interested in religion than life. We come to regard the Christian’s business on Sunday as sacred, but his business on Monday as secular. How artificial! This unreal, unbiblical division will not stand. My commitment to God is total; it knows no cubbyholes or compartments.
The church has too often successfully called its members out of the world, out of community and civic life, and as a result it now often resembles an irrelevant island of piety surrounded by an ocean of need, a flickering light hid under a bushel. Jesus would say, “Get the bushel off the light and let it shine within the world.” Let us remember Jesus’ sermon:
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set
on a hill cannot be hid . . . Let your light so shine
before men, that they may see your good works,
and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16).
Light is in the world, and that is where Christ’s church must go for that is where lost people need saving.