Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Tension of Living in Two Worlds

...the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.
1 Corinthians 7:29-31 (NIV)

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

1 John 2:15-17 (NIV)

I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.

1 Corinthians 5:9-10 (NIV)

We live in this world but are not to be of it. That's quite a lot to pull off-- a little like taking a bath without getting wet. One of my children did that once, or so he said, but this is not a command we can get away with lying about, and certainly our Father is no father who can be lied to. So we lay ourselves down, like a rope in a tug of war, and attempt the impossible.

Whatever our hands find to do, we must do with all our strength-- not half-hearted, not lacking in ambition, whether our careers or even just avocational interests. God cannot be honored by sloppiness or lack of commitment, so we concentrate our skills and attention and yet...

We try love our neighbors as ourselves, to take up the cause of the widow and orphan, and to respond to the fallen on the way. It requires not an unnoticeable amount of time and effort, and even some material. We focus on the effort to make the world a better place by easing the suffering so prevalent, and often end up squeezing the Gospel out of the picture and embracing a humanist ideal. Hmmm....

We are citizens of the land we live in, regardless of whether we give it much thought or not. In some countries, it does not demand that much from us; in America, civic duty is always clamoring for the Christian's attention: jury duty, taxes, elections, the incessant stream of e-mail warning us that the country will go to hell in a hand basket if we don't call our congressman today. Evangelicals decided to make a political stand part of their spiritual agenda in 1980. Since then, if anything, the country's decline has been more precipitous...

This world is not our home. To be too at home here is destined to make us too strange to him who matters, and too antagonistic to his interests in our lives. To go off on our own, even as if on a mission from God, to make this world a better place is bound to corrupt the mission we do have from God, and frustrate the Spirit he gave to fill us. The tension of living in two worlds is apt to tear the best of us in two: could any of us ever endure if it were not for the grace of God?


Onesimus said...

It's not easy to admit to the degree that we are influenced by the world and its attitudes.

We tend to thank God for the comforts and blessings we've received from Him - but I wonder whether many of the things we are are labelling as "blessings from God" are in fact the thorns that help choke the effectiveness of the word in our lives, preventing its fruitfulness (as per parable of the sower).

Its easier to justify things in our lives if we've given God the credit for giving them to us.

SLW said...

I think you're right about how surreptitiously worldly blessings can suck the life out of us. Like the flower of a clinging vine, they look pretty so we ignore the tendrils choking the life of God out of us.