In the world but not of it: Christians and the World

Not long ago, I heard someone saying that the world was evil and sinful and that Christians should avoid and ignore the world, focusing instead on the coming reign of God. The role of Christians in the world around it has been debated since the very beginning, but I would disagree with the idea that the world is completely evil, and so does Lutheran theology. The devil can’t create anything; only God can create things. All the devil (or sin and evil, if you prefer not to believe in an actual “devil”) can do is warp things.

God created the whole world and all that is in it. He is present in all things, always beside us in the world. Nothing that God has created can ever be wholly evil. It can be twisted by the devil and used for evil purposes, but it is not by nature evil. Everything we have, everything in heaven and on Earth, is daily given, sustained, and protected by God. That includes the food we eat and the clothes we wear. Now, both can be used for bad purposes, but being fed and clothed is good, right? Some things are easier to misuse than others, but that doesn’t mean that that they are by nature evil. God provides for us through the things he has created, through the whole world we live in and all the creatures that inhabit it. Our daily needs are fulfilled as gifts from God, not evil things from the devil.

It is true that the world is broken and twisted by sin, and so is everyone who lives in it, including you and me. This is not because human nature is bad. God created human nature to be good, and recognizes it as his own work even as sinful as we are now. After the fall, we became corrupted by sin so deeply that nothing is left whole and pure and only God can separate the sin from our nature. Even when we try to do good, we don’t always succeed, and we’re not always as focused as we should be on doing good. Both goodness and sin are present at the same time and in the same place.

We know that we are held captive by sin and cannot free ourselves. We depend on God’s grace and love to free us from the dominion of sin. It isn’t just individuals who are captive to sin, either—all of creation is. Theologians like to talk about “systemic sins”—that’s a fancy way of saying that everything is affected by sin, and it’s not always traceable to single people or causes. Things like poverty, war, hunger, homelessness, inability to afford medical care—those things are sins that are not the result of any one person’s action or inaction. They just are. As Christians, it is our job to bring Christ’s redeeming presence into the world, in both word and deed, to individuals and communities. Sometimes that means rejecting parts of the world that are most twisted by sin. Sometimes that means going out into the world as God’s hands and feet, to bring good news and healing through word and deed. It always means shining a light in darkness and treating others with the same love and forgiveness God has granted us.

As Christians, we are in the world but not of it. Our true home is the kingdom of God, and yet we live here in this flawed and fallen world. Although the world is God’s good creation, it is also twisted by sin. We love the goodness while hating the sin. It can be difficult to balance the two perspectives. Being God’s children means we can’t just withdraw and write off everything as evil and bad. God called us and loves us despite our own sins, and renews us every day. As God’s children, we are sent out into the world to bring that healing where we can. We can’t fix everything; only God can do that when he comes in glory. But we can, with God’s help, make a difference in the lives of those around us, through prayer and action.

If you have any questions about Christianity, Christian life, or Christian theology, please leave a comment and I will address it next week.

2 thoughts on “In the world but not of it: Christians and the World

  1. “Love Not The World”

    ”For the WHOLE world is under the control of the evil one”(I John 5:19)

    “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 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. And the world will pass away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of The Only True GOD will abide for ever.” (I John 2:15-17)

    “If you were of the world, the world would love it’s own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said unto you, the servant is not greater than his Master. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also.” (John 15:19-20)

    “Where do wars and fighting among you come from? Do they not come of your lusts that war in your members? You lust, and have not: you kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: you fight and war yet you have not, because you ask not. You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts. You adulterers and adulteresses, don’t you know that friendship with the world is to be at enmity with The Only True GOD? Therefore whoever will be a friend of the world is the enemy of The Only True GOD.” (James 4:1-4)

    “The world cannot hate you; but the world hates Me, because I testify that the works of this world are evil.” (John 7:7)” and “The Messiah gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of The Only True God, Our Father.”(Gal 1:4)

    The Messiah testified: “If the world hates you know that it hated Me before it hated you.”(John 5:18) Truly, Truly, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone: but if it die it brings forth much fruit. He that loves his life in this world shall lose it; and he that hates his life in this world shall have it unto life eternal.” (John 12:24-25)

    John testified: “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hates you.” (I John 3:13) “ James testified, “Whoever would be a friend of this world is the enemy of GOD”(James 4:4)

    The “earth” is The Creation of The Only True GOD, Father of ALL! The “worldly” systems are the creation of, and under the dominion of “the god of this world”, he who is “the father of lies”, he who “has blinded the minds of those who believe not The Messiah”! All the nations of this world are under the dominion of, and serve, the evil one for he provides the fuel that feeds mankind’s “imag”ination, and mankind’s “imagination is destroying and perverting Creation(land, air, water, creatures, Truth, Love, Peace, Faith, Simplicity, .etc.) ;-(

    And the “strongest thing” in the evil one’s worldly systems? “Woman”…… yet The Truth, that which is of The Only True GOD, is stronger even than woman. (read I Esdras 3&4 of the Apocrypha) And Truth, Love, Peace, Faith, Mercy, Hope,,,etc,,, all that is “good”, is of The Only True GOD and is of HIS Spirit, not of this world. Those born of The Spirit, those born of The Only True GOD, are the brethren of The Messiah, for they received “a love of The Truth that they might be saved”. Reborn!

    And those who have received “a love of The Truth” have separated themselves from this world and those of this world, for they have taken heed unto The Call of The Only True GOD to “Come out of her MY people.” They are “in, but not of this wicked, evil world”, and The Only True GOD has received them, and is “A Father unto them, and they are HIS sons and daughters”. And they follow, and desire to be like their Master and Brother, The Messiah, He Who was “the firstborn of many brethren”. And as “The Messiah was a servant of The Only True GOD”, so also His Brethren are “servants of The Only True GOD.”

    The called out ones are not “adulterers and adulteresses”, they are not “friends of this wicked, evil world”, they do not “fornicate with the god of this world” for they know that “to be a friend of this world is to be the enemy of The Only True GOD.” They are at war against the evil spirits that possess those who are of this world.

    And they do not “allow that woman Jezebel, which calls herself a prophetess, to teach. For she teaches others to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. The Only True GOD gave her a chance to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.” (Rev 2:20-21)

    “fornication” and “adultery..” in that which is recorded above signifies spiritual fornication with “the god of this world”, which is to love that which is of his world.

    Once again, the “earth” is The Creation of The Only True GOD, Father of ALL! The “worldly” systems are the creation of, and under the dominion of “the god of this world”. Those who “love this world” all serve “the god of this world”, and play their part in the processes that seek to destroy The Creation of The Only True GOD. “And The Only True GOD will destroy them who destroy the earth.” (Rev 11:18) Global warming, polluted air, land and waters, toxic wastes, sexual perversion, evil inventions of destruction, greed, hate, carnal warfare, dis-ease ,,,etc,,, are all destructive processes that have their root in “the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life”. And as stated, “woman is the strongest thing of this world”. Yet stronger than woman is The Truth, which is in those who have “received a love of The Truth”. The Truth Is Alive in those who have been born of The Spirit for “they no longer love this wicked, evil world and it’s things, nor do they love their own lives in this world”. They but seek and desire The Will of GOD, as they await their final transformation. “Corruptible to Incorruptible” ndeed and Truth!

    Now “the ground was cursed for Adam’s sake” because he “hearkened unto the woman”. Adam listened to a woman rather than obeying The Only True GOD. Yet because of Faithful Noah, The Only True GOD “no longer would curse the ground for man’s sake” because Noah obeyed The Only True GOD! (Genesis 8:21-22) And the Faithful today are exhorted to “love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” And Faithful women are exhorted to “be in silence.” “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. For I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” “For Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (I Timothy 2:11,12,14) A man and woman joined together in obedience and submission unto The Only True GOD are blessed indeed. All who are not obedient, all who will not submit themselves unto The Only True GOD will have to answer to HIM..period.. Be not of those who deny and defy “The One GOD, Father of All”. Be not of those who are destroying and perverting HIS Creation(land, air, water, creatures, Truth, Love, Peace, .etc.)!

    “The Only True GOD is The HEAD of The Messiah, The Messiah is The Head of the man, and the man is the head of the woman”. Multitudes pervert GOD’s Order because they have been seduced by ” the commandments and doctrines of men and devils”. Multitudes are seduced by the religious systems that are in and of this evil world. Seduced because they love this evil world and their own life in it! “Set your affections on things above”. Desire heavenly, eternal things. Quit serving ‘time’ in the prison that is this world and take heed unto the call to ”Come out from among them and be separate!”

    Once again, “Come out” of the worldly systems, which are the product of mankind’s “imag”ination, especially the religious systems. “Come out” from among those who are destroying and perverting Creation and be of those who follow The Messiah on “The Way to The Truth of The Life”.

    Peace, in spite of the dis-ease(no-peace) that is of this world……. francisco

  2. For God So Loved the World.

    Francisco, thank you for taking the time to comment, even though I disagree with most of what you said (or at least, your interpretation of it).

    “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” Genesis 1:31

    In the first chapter of Genesis, as the creation of the world is narrated, after each day’s work is done, God sees what he has done that day and calls it good. Everything, from the separation of earth and water (1:10), the bringing forth of vegetation (1:12), the creation of sun and stars and the separation of light and darkness (1:18), the creation of living creatures (1:21, 25), is called good. Humanity, male and female, created in the image of God (1:27) is included in this. No matter what happened later, the world was created good.

    Sin was introduced in the third chapter of Genesis, when Eve took the apple and ate it and shared it with Adam, in direct contradiction to God’s commandment. Eve may have been the first to take the apple, but Adam was just as complicit; he was “with her” (3:6), yet he did not try to speak out against the snake or for God’s command or try to avoid eating. Regardless of Eve’s actions, Adam could have chosen to stay faithful to God’s command. He did not. In fact, when God came to question them, Adam was the first to compound the sin of disobedience by trying to justify himself and shift the blame for his own actions to someone else. Not only does Adam blame Eve for his own sin, he tries to blame God as well, by reminding God that God created Eve for him (3:12) and thus implying that it’s God’s fault that Adam followed her. Eve also tries to shift the blame, but she at least does not try to imply that God is at fault (3:13). Their sins are not the same, but both have sinned. And through their combined actions, evil was allowed into the world. It was created good, but (just like humankind) it has been corrupted by sin until only the power of God’s love and grace can redeem it.

    “But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-24)

    “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2)

    “I write to you, children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young people, because you are strong and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world– the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches– comes not from the Father but from the world.” (1 John 2:14-16)

    All people and everything in the world is held captive by sin; all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The world is sinful because we, all of us, everywhere, are sinful. Christ’s redemptive power is not just for the people of God, but for all of creation, the whole world. The world is a sinful place, but God has not abandoned it. All people are sinful—including all Christians!—but God has not abandoned us, either. When Christ comes in glory at the end of the age, not only will our sins be forgiven and we will be made righteous, the whole world will be redeemed as well, and there will be “a new heaven and a new earth,” just as there will be a “new Adam.”

    As Christians, until that time comes we are to go out into the world and bring the light of Christ to all people. (Matthew 5:16) We are sent out to bring good news to all people, and that means meeting them where they are, just as Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. Did you know that the word “apostle” means “one who is sent out”? We cannot spread the Word and work for the justice God so desires if we stay safely in our churches and Christian families. We have been given the most precious, amazing gift imaginable: God’s love and forgiveness. We are called to give that gift to all people, to the whole world. We cannot forget that the world is sinful, and often does exactly what God does not want because he does not want it; we cannot forget that we ourselves are sinful also, and often do exactly what God does not want. But we also cannot forget that God created the world to be good, and that the goodness of the world is part of the ultimate reality that will triumph in the end.

    Now, the danger of course is that in the process we sometimes lose our way and become more concerned with the cares of the world than with the will of God. As Paul reminds us, this is something we need to watch out for: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God– what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) If we pay too much attention to the cares of the world, that is, to the world as it is now, broken and twisted by sin, we will indeed be led astray. Being transformed as children of God and listening to God’s Word means focusing on the underlying reality, the good creation that groans under the weight of sin as a woman in labor pains, waiting for redemption, for the day when God will again be able to look at the world and call it good. Too much fear of the sins of the world and how it may corrupt us is a form of being conformed to the world—it means you are so caught up in the problems that you cannot hear God’s call to go out and be a little Christ to your neighbor, to be a city on a hill, a light on a lamp-stand, an agent of God’s creative and redeeming work in a world that desperately needs it.

    As to the quotes from the Apocrypha you reference, as a Protestant I do not accept their validity as scriptural canon. They are valuable references to the spirituality of the time between the completion of the last books in the Old Testament and the first books in the New Testament, but they are not scripture. Even Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians consider them to be on a lesser level of authority than the non-apocryphal scriptures.

    As to women, the Bible offers a varied view, and where there is conflict one must use scripture to interpret scripture. Judah calls his daughter-in-law Tamar “more righteous than I” (Genesis 38:26). The midwives Shiphrah and Puah stood up to Pharaoh at risk of their own lives and saved many children of Israel. Miriam the prophet saved her brother Moses as a baby and was a leader in Israel along with her brothers Moses and Aaron. Milcah and her sisters stood before Moses and the elders and claimed the right to their father’s inheritance, which the Lord approved. Deborah was a prophet and a judge over Israel, who led Israel in a battle that gave them their first access to the fertile and prosperous plain of Esdraelon and part of the plain of Sharon. Ruth’s faithfulness gained God’s favor to such an extent that she became the grandmother of David and an ancestress of Jesus. Esther saved the people of Israel. Mary was the mother of Jesus Christ. Elizabeth was a faithful woman, who had more trust in the Lord than her husband did, and was the mother of John the Baptist. Anna was a prophetess who lived in the temple and predicted the great things the infant Jesus would do. Mary and Martha were friends of Jesus and believers. Mary Magdalen was another important female supporter of Jesus. At the Resurrection, Jesus appeared first to the women, before even to the male disciples. Lydia was the first European to hear the Gospel and be converted, and supported Paul in his ministry. Paul repeatedly refers to women as partners in ministry and important leaders in the church, including Prisca (mentioned several times, often listed before her husband Aquila), Chloe, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, and Persis (workers in the Lord), Julia, Euodia and Syntyche (who have struggled beside Paul in the work of the Gospel), Nympha (who leads a church that meets in her house), and Apphia.

    In the first generation of the church, the thirty years following Jesus’ death and resurrection, the church had many female leaders and the place of women in the church was far greater than that of women in the world surrounding them. As Paul said, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:27-28). As time passed and persecution of the Christian community grew, there was great pressure to appear less threatening to society—to appear to have similar values. To conform to the world, as Paul had warned against in his letter to the Romans. Part of this meant that women were removed from positions of authority. (I will note that the letters to Timothy and Titus, and Ephesians and Colossians, were written at least twenty years later than the letter to the Romans.) There are many places where women are condemned in scripture, but there are also many places where men are condemned in scripture. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, both women and men. The Good News is that Christ is Lord of All, and Savior of all. Amen.

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