I started reading a book called You Lost Me by David Kinnaman today. It’s one of those books which is depressing to read because it presents truths that you wish didn’t exist. It’s about young adults who leave the church - and often their faith - behind because of how frustrated they are. The worst part is that their arguements are pretty darn valid. In the book, Kinnaman refers to an idea which the church promotes a lot: being in the world, not of it.
We’ve all heard the saying that we are “in this world, not of it” many times, I’m sure. It comes from Jesus’ prayer for his disciples in John 17.
But I think when we in Church say it, we tend to have the idea that we need to add the word ‘but’. We are in this world BUT not of it. The obvious emphasis being that we need to remember the fact that we are above and beyond this valley of tears we call earth. We are looking forward to eternity in glory with the creator of all, the source of light and truth and love and peace! We just have to endure this nightmare a little while before we wake up and all is well.
And I think that’s the wrong mindset. In the prayer we refer to, Jesus says this: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one.” (John 17:15 - emphasis mine)
I think that instead of saying “In this world BUT not of it”, we should say that we are “In this world AND not of it”. We’re not trapped here in the previews, waiting for the movie to start. The movie has begun! God’s kingdom is here. God’s kingdom is now.
The two concepts of “in this world, not of it” are not either/or, they’re both/and!
Songs like “When I die / Hallelujah by and by / I’ll fly away” speak to an escapist mentality that clearly wasn’t the intention Jesus had for his followers.
Let’s not view this life as a prison sentence where we are waiting for our parole. Paul balanced these dueling ideas when he said “To live is Christ, to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21)
There wasn’t a “bad option” that he wanted to avoid. Both were good. Heaven AND earth. We are in this world AND not of it. Let’s not seek to be so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good.
We must build relationships in this world to have an impact. And relationships mean seeing eye to eye with people, not looking down on them. We are in this world just like everybody else is in this world. Let’s connect on that level, so that we can speak of the one who can make us to also be ‘not of it’.