In the World, but not Of the World

The following quote is posted on Justin’s site, Wine Cheese and Theology:

“For his neighbours’ sake if for no other reason, the Christian should beware of becoming a person of so few earthly interests that he cannot sustain a conversation, let alone a friendship with anybody outside his religious circle. To have a genuine and discriminating pleasure in some human pursuit is to be halfway toward deserving human confidence and without confidence people cannot be led towards the knowledge of Christ, they can only be prodded.” – Derek Kidner

There’s something a bit off in this sentiment, I think. Isn’t this a voicing of the “seeker friendly” approach, which is popular in so many churches today, as opposed to the God-centered presentation to needy humanity of God’s Word?

Nevertheless, I find this quote to be quite thought provoking, so don’t want to immediately dismiss it. There is a tension between being in the world, and yet not being worldly. This is one example of an issue that requires Christian discernment and maturity, and a skillful use of the Word of righteousness (Hebrews 5:13), the wisdom that God gives us in His Word.

My thoughts are drawn to Christ’s words in John 17:15-18:

15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.

I looked these verses up on my favorite Bible site, Blue Letter Bible, and chose to read Matthew Henry’s commentary on this portion of Scripture. Here are some of his “quotable” statements:

“Though Christ loves his disciples, he does not presently send for them to heaven, as soon as they are effectually called, but leaves them for some time in this world, that they may do good and glorify God upon earth, and be ripened for heaven. Many good people are spared to live, because they can ill be spared to die.” – Matthew Henry (emphasis added)

“It is more the honour of a Christian soldier by faith to overcome the world than by a monastical vow to retreat from it; and more for the honour of Christ to serve him in a city than to serve him in a cell [a monk’s lonely dwelling – my definition].” – Matthew Henry

“When Christ would express the utmost need his disciples had of divine preservation, he only says, They are in the world; this bespeaks danger enough to those who are bound for heaven, whom a flattering world would divert and seduce, and a malignant world would hate and persecute.” – Matthew Henry

As I continue thinking about this concept of being in the world but not of the world, I realize that it is far too large a subject for me to address on my little blog.

  1. I know that it’s wrong to withdraw into a Christian commune, because this is an attempt to remove oneself from this present world.
  2. I also disagree with the thought that Christians must wear clothing totally different from what is currently popular. I think the Lord requires only that the clothing be modest and appropriate to one’s place in life and the occasion (1 Timothy 2:9).
  3. I also know that it’s wrong to be absorbed in the pleasures and duties of this life. Though we do have many earthly duties and interests, the truth remains that we are not to have an inordinate love for this present life.

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” – Matthew 6:33 (emphasis added)

For myself, at this point in time, I draw the line with these questions, “What do I LOVE? What do I truly SEEK FIRST?”

I think I need further teaching on the following verses from 1 John 2:15 – 17:

15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

3 Responses to “In the World, but not Of the World”

  1. Marmee says:

    Great post, Joyce. We all need to examine where our “treasure” lies….is it in this world or the next!?! Just how much of the world do we allow ourselves to get wrapped up in. These are hard questions. Thanks for writing about this….a good reminder for me!

  2. I think the key is found in Christ’s example. Love people. Be real. Don’t prejudge, but extend hope and friendship.

    Suzie Eller

  3. Joyce says:

    Thank you, Marmee and Suzie, for your comments.

    Yes, I agree that a person who truly loves Christ rather than “the world” is the person who is going to attract the unsaved to Christ. Such a person is able to show a real, godly interest in people. In his or her interactions with others, the focus is not so much on shared hobbies as on heart-felt love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, etc. (Galatians 5:22)in action in the relationship.