Thank you for this sermon Robert! I liked it because answered some questions I have been battling with for a while. There is often this argument in my head regarding where I am to spend my efforts and my time. What I mean by this is as follows- I have some really beautiful and meaningful friendships here at our church though I also have a lot of friends and family who don’t frequent church or do not believe and I love them too. Sometimes I feel that I should not spend as much time with them but the other side of the argument is that I think it’s a wonderful thing if I can be with them and try to be someone whom they can look up to in a Christian way.
To be clear I always know that I am dwelling in this world, I often feel protected; I also feel that I am set aside, different than the main stream. I do belong to Him. I try to present myself in such a way that I may be someone who can be trusted when friends/family need someone like me… someone who is different, someone who can help with issues or questions regarding God/Jesus/The Bible/Christianity.
Sometimes I even have enough courage to reach out on my own. It’s very uncomfortable for me but the way I look at it is this- if you feel God has asked something of you, you really don’t have a choice in the matter any longer, He will keep on you. I am always amazed at the outcome of these conversations and how God takes someone like me who is so small, crooked and so insignificant and speaks such powerful messages. I am floored at the outcome and breadth of movement He has caused in these lives I am close to. I am honored that he would ask me to help. I am excited to be knee-deep in the non-believers of the world and to speak His Truth every chance I make. I am here to plant the seeds for Him.
So I think I know the answer to the squabble I have. As long as I can be a person set aside by Him and for Him I will continue to pay lots of attention to all my friends and family. I’ll certainly continue to learn as much as I can about God so that I might be a good servant.
You noted that on one end of the spectrum are believers (you used the Amish as an example) who have truly separated themselves from society, both figuratively and literally. And you noted that certain groups have been doing that for centuries, especially in early Christendom. At the other end of the scale are believers who don’t look any different from non-believers because they are so in the world that a non-believer would never see anything Christ-like in or about that person. Worse still, the non-believer could ultimately come to the conclusion that they themselves are a believer or a Christian because of the measure of themselves against a person who claims to be a believer.
My logical conclusion was that we need to be somewhere in the middle. However, that makes us “sort of” different and “sort of” no different. It actually seems to make us lukewarm and it makes it easy for us to come to church on Sunday morning to repent for Friday and Saturday nights (blatant theft from Bruce Hornsby).
So the illogical (but appropriate) conclusion is that we have to be both: we have to be so different in what we say and do and believe that we appear “Amish” to the non-believer, while at the same time looking just like they do (living in the same type of neighborhood, kids going to the same kind of school, wearing the same kind of clothes, having the same kind of jobs, dealing with the same kinds of life issues, etc.). At once there is a visible difference and a visible sameness – or there should be. That is the challenge: to be in the world but not of it. It’s a simple concept with lots of earthy human complexities we bring into the mix.