In John 10:10 Jesus promises His followers abundant life. This blog is about my life as His follower.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Can we be set apart for God and in the world at the same time?

Right now I'm trying to hear God about a job for which I've been interviewing. My specific situation has got me to thinking about the age old Christian issue about how much should we be in the world.

I have not been offered the job, but I'm trying to decide for sure if I even want it so that I'll know what to do if I am offered the position. My problem is that, this business does some things that are legal, socially accepted, common practices, but with which I have issues because of how I look at things since I'm a Christian.

My husband John has an interesting take on it. He's worked in the public school arena for 35 years and really thinks Christians need to be out in the world making a difference. He talks passionately about how if we pull out of everything that is secular (which frequently most secular institutions will do some things that as Christians we do not agree with) - how are people to see the gospel? He quoted the following scripture from 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 (I'm printing it in the Message paraphrase but linked it to several translations side by side):

In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse.

This is a terrific responsibility. Is anyone competent to take it on? No— but at least we don't take God's Word, water it down, and then take it to the streets to sell it cheap. We stand in Christ's presence when we speak; God looks us in the face. We get what we say straight from God and say it as honestly as we can.

As I read this scripture, I find myself asking if the world needs Christians so that they can experience God's presence through them, does this mean that sometimes it is God's will for Christians to be places where everything being done is not godly? I also find myself wondering if I always need to actually speak the truth out loud against things that I believe are wrong?

John's point about this scripture is that he thinks just being a Christian and having the Holy Spirit within you makes a difference to that location. I know this is true; I had one experience with this that is still vivid for me. Once when I was running a facility in west LA, we were in the midst of an annual survey with the department of public health; I had one of the surveyors pull me aside and tell me that she sensed the presence of Christ in me and to never take that for granted, that He could bring light into that dark place through His presence in me. I remember feeling like God spoke to me through that woman and I would get to work early every morning and just walk about the place, silently praying for the staff, patients and issues of the day.

Recently I was re-reading the story of when the nation of Israel came back into the promised land and Rehab's role in this. I can't help but think that those Jewish spies who came back to check out the land and met Rehab were surprised that God was using a harlot to help them, harlots were unclean people who were choosing to live in a lifestyle of undeniable sin. Normally they would not even let themselves be around such a sinner. But God used Rehab and she is even in the lineage of Jesus - my point being that God doesn't always work in ways that agree with our religious cultural morality.

Christians talk a lot about being set apart, holy, so God can use them and not wanting to be corrupted by the world. But does that mean we are not be around the world? And if we're around the world, how much around it is OK? I want to live a life that is every day, in every way, pleasing to God. I lean toward thinking that these issues are very individual and that I must be open because God may not work in the Christian acceptable box that I may tend toward building.

The last part of this scripture clearly speaks to not watering down and compromising God's message, it's speaking about hearing from God what to say and being faithful to speak just that. But does this mean we always need to speak out? Or does it imply that when God directs us to speak, we make sure to say what He wants?

These are questions I'm pondering today and would be very interested in hearing your thoughts. I've put in bold the questions I'm asking myself and I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on these issues, or anything you care to say in general on this topic.


Andrea said...

I tend to agree with your hubby. How can I make a difference if I am not among those who are unsaved.

Blessings, hugs, and prayers,

RCUBEs said...

Sister Tracy, your post took me back to Mark 2:16,17. The self-righteous Pharisees were indignant that Jesus would eat a meal with such sinners. But Jesus gladly did that because He loved them. And He knew they needed to hear what He had to say.

We, too, must befriend those who need Christ. Even if they don't seem to be ideal companions. I think set apart means we are not to do the sinful things that they do. But accept and share His love if given an opportunity.

I was scared when the Lord first brought me to the prison, not having any working experience in that violent environment. But what if the Lord is bringing us to places where there are people needing to hear the Good News?

I'd say, follow what He has placed in your heart, not of anyone else's nudging. Except, for your DH, which I happen to agree with :)

May God guide you and give you the discernment that you need. Blessings.

Michelle said...

I believe you ultimately must see through scripture where God wants you to go with this job. Just ask yourself, will I have to submit to their rules over the convictions God has given me? Will I have to be involved in immoral activity?

My mind instantly went to I Corinthians 5:10 (although I had to look the actual chapter and vs up and it took time! I need to be doing some memory verses!) Anyways... it says.."Yet I did not mean the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolators, since then you would need to go out of the world."

I believe when we are to speak out is to brothers and sisters in Christ. (According to the above scripture and the scripture surrounding...) We are called to speak truth but it's easy to allow our pride and "puffed up-ness" to get in the way of what the Spirit is trying to say. (For me it is anyways.)The Truth goes to brothers and sisters...the gospel goes to to unbelievers. The unbelievers don't care about the Truth of scripture but they need the gospel. (And I'm not sure if that is just makes sense right now.)

As far as being around the world, I think we need to cut it off. I believe that scripture is clear about this and that when we cut off the world...we will be hated for His name sake. I was just reading in Acts today in the first few chapters and thought to myself...the early believers devoted their entire life to spreading the wasn't what they did when they went to was their work. Let me say I instead of "we." I am so embedded in this culture that I sometimes cannot find who God really is. What I watch on TV, listen to, wear, converse can all be so worldly. And when I'm in it, I want it. And the things of this world are so ungodly and we as a culture have just been desensitized. I haven't cut off myself from the world, but I need to...b/c it prevents me from dying and Christ from growing in me.

Denise said...

Speak what God puts into your heart, let it flow freely from your mouth.

jenny said...

Sometimes it's hard to decide what to do, think, and act. But i guess, it boils down to our rationality.

Deborah Ann said...

This is a sensitive issue. Jesus hung out with the wrong crowd. God actually took me away from the church for a time being, and put me right in the middle of a worldy place. I learned to love these people. They accepted me for who I was, when there were many christians who didn't do that. I think we have to remember that God loves the drug users, the alcoholics, the criminals. And though we need to be careful not to indulge in such activities, there's nothing stopping us from loving them and reaching out to them.

photogr said...

I have always been a morally convicted person when it came to vlaues. I once worked for a company that asked me to do jobs that went against my convictions. I refused to lie about a product to potential clients. I walked away from that job in protest and never looked back.

I have always looked on others and treated them as I wanted to be treated no matter what their backgrounds were.

Some were turned to Christ as I showed them love and compassion through my actions and didn't judge them.

I think this is what the Lord wants from us. To be honest and truthful to others, to set an example of living as a Christian, to love other and our enemies, and win souls to Christ by not compromising our Christian values.

Inge' said...

I have been thinking a lot about this post. I wanted to make sure I could post my comment and not sound to much like your mom.

My personal experience in this realm is one that I am not proud of.

I took a job that I knew was wrong for me. I was a single mom at the time, and even though I could "hear" God telling me this was not the job for me, I took it anyway. I have regretted it ever since.

While we cannot avoid being in the world, we can avoid being of the world. The problem is, if you compromise yourself, you find yourself caught up in the very thing you have been trying to avoid.

I tried to convince myself that I could rise above that which went against what I knew to be wrong in the eyes of God. I tried to convince myself that I could be a "light" in such a dark place. Nothing can be further from the truth. I am not saying this is not possible. But, it is usually the opposite. You find yourself making small compromises at first. Then, before you realize it, you are making bigger compromises and this always leads you away from the Lord.

All I can tell you is this: If you are questioning this move, then you already know the answer.

Stand firm in your trust in God and lean on Him for guidance in voicing your decision. He has provided so far, and He will not fail you now.

Tracy said...

I really appreciate the thoughtful, honest, input

Mike said...

John is a wise fella!

I'll share an old quip I once heard:

"Get into the Word and the Word will get into you;
Stay out of the Word and the world will get into you."

You can be in the world (after all, it's where God placed Adam and Eve in the first work it) and not allow it to influence you. It's why Paul often encouraged, "Be on your guard!" Put on the full armor of God.

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