What Does It Mean To Be Separate From The World
There are many different religions and denominations around the world and all of them have their own unique identifiers. Most often they focus on being set apart from the rest of the world, an elite group of believers that are destined for heaven and anyone who is outside their group will be looked down on as going to hell and some may even be killed for believing a different God. The verses that may often be used is as follows:
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love 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.” 1 John 2:15-17
"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." 1 Peter 2:9
Leaders may use these verses or others or they will say "God showed me ..." Others will teach that the elders and rulers need to be obeyed without questioning or if questions do come forth they are answered vaguely. Often studying Scripture will be avoided or taught against or on the other end the focus will be on things like works or clothing, etc while using verses from the Bible to support what is being taught in order to keep people under their control while "painting" other things in a negative light such as ______ is sin. Here is something my friend Janelle shared:
"There's a memory tickling my mind this morning. A memory from when I was a skinny, shy little kid, growing up in the Midwest, in an Old Order Mennonite community where the notion of being born again was greeted with a great deal of skepticism and the assurance that you cannot "know" although you can hope.
There, in that atmosphere of confusion and swirling questions, I watched and thought and wondered.
There, one summer morning, a young couple came to visit. They'd recently left the Old Order church, and the adults discussed that fact with disapproval, before they arrived. In my mind, I figured they'd be unhappy people. Rebellious people always were, right?
Then they showed up. Smiling. Open faced. And (horrors!) openly driving a car.
I stood back, and watched. And on that sunny morning, in the gravel and sparse grass beside the hitching rail, with the cool dew on my bare feet, I saw something I didn't understand. Something beautiful. Something that drew me, even though I didn't understand why.
I have no idea who they were, or where they are today. But that young couple, with the light and life of Jesus on their smiling faces, courageously visiting my disapproving parents, played a significant part in my journey.
They can't possibly know how that short visit impacted me. It's a sobering and encouraging thing, to reflect on.
PS. It was years later, when the highlighted verse suddenly made sense to me. And it wasn't until then that I began to understand what that light was, in the eyes of those young folks all those years before."
The last time I went to visit my family I surprised them for Ascension Day when they were all gathering at my one sister's house. Of course they were glad to see me but one of them confronted me later in the afternoon for not having a head covering on(it was the first time they saw me without). Me, trying to be kind and of course wanting to be understood, explained it all to her. From the beginning of the conversation I could tell it wasn't going to go well but not knowing how to handle it I said that we need to agree to disagree. If I was to do it over I would not even have started explaining because the other person was not open to differing views. It was basically like throwing my pearls before swine because she wasn't open to anything I was saying. But what she said at one point is what I want to share now that I've laid the foundation for you. She said, I want to be different than the world. I want people to see me and know there's something different about me and what I believe. That's why I wear a cape dress and covering. How can you say you are different when you don't look different from the world? I explained to her how I realized I had pride in my heart and according to the Bible pride is going to keep me out of heaven and I don't want that to happen. I also explained how God gave me freedom to not wear one.
(Feel free to read more here:
Another thing that has bothered me as well...a lady I used to live with was an older lady and so when she went away she often wore a black shawl and a black bonnet and black socks and shoes according to the dress code. One day she and her husband went to Walmart and when she got home she mentioned how a child had seen her and asked his parent if she was a witch...how can that be a positive light to the people around us?
Due to all the abuse and trauma I've been through in my life there are days where I will feel sad or angry and have no idea why. The first couple I really opened up to and trusted didn't understand how abuse and trauma affects a person in ways that "normal" people might not have any idea. They saw my struggles and not understanding, turned it into spiritual abuse by implying that they wonder if I'm even saved because of my actions. They more than once implied that because I didn't have a smile on my face all the time I wasn't being a good Christian witness. These things caused much confusion and through all of these incidents, has begged me to ask the questions: what does it mean to be separate from the world? What does it mean to be a light to the world? How is one to share the gospel without spiritually abusing others?
I've been pondering these questions for quite a while. Along with the fear of disapproval by those who are my physical family as well as being torn between being honest with my mom and causing her more pain or just not saying anything. These things are gut wrenching and painful. I cannot respect my parents for their denial and abuse yet I am called to honor them. How? As a believer for whom the Bible is the base of what I believe, how do I live in the freedom and liberty of God's Word and at the same time bow and obey extra biblical teachings and not be caught in bondage? In my understanding of the Bible the 2 do no not go together. Matthew 6:24 comes to mind:
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8
Remember the thief on the cross? He believed and even though there where no works he could while hanging on a cross, Jesus told him, "Today you will be with Me in paradise." What a comfort that must have been to him....hope after death...
It seems as though humans can not settle and rest in the fact that we are saved by faith, rather they say "but you need to do this thing or that thing to actually get to heaven."
A person who has been truly born again will, out of the abundance of gratefulness and appreciation in his heart for what Jesus has done for him in his life, do works. Ephesians 2:10 says:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Back to what my sister asked, "How can you say you're different from the world if you look like them?"... I've pondered this ever since our conversation and only lately have I been seeing things in Scripture that I think, Yes, this is what would draw me to be a Christian... personally if I wasn't a born again believer the things that would draw me to a Christian would be their love for each other and especially if I'd see them return good for evil. Another thing would be if I'd know a person is going through something terrible and I'd see them have an inner strength and hope that I don't have in my own life.
Everybody who considers themselves a Christian needs to figure out between themselves and God how God wants them to live. When people start adding things to salvation like dress code, speaking in tongues, or anything else to the Gospel message they are treading on dangerous ground. Doesn't Revelations give a warning to those who add or take away from the Scriptures? A person can portray anything he wants on the outside but Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 15:
Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.
Until we accept the gift of salvation and begin a relationship with Jesus Christ we can try as hard as we want but the evil nature of our hearts will not change. When we begin walking with Jesus, the Holy Spirit indwells us and He is the one that changes our hearts and desires. I have found it so in my life. We follow Him and live as He wants us to and He changes our heart. Soon, instead of ugly things coming out of our hearts good things will come out which is the fruit of the Spirit(Galatians 5:22-23):
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
These are the things that would draw me to a Christian, and even as a Christian they draw me. Here's a few more verses that got my attention as to how I can be different from the world...
But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews? We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. Galatians 2:14-16
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:1-11
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:33-35
I think it is to our detriment that so often groups and denominations lift verses out of context for numerous reasons. People who are sincerely trying to live godly lives are often caught in these extra biblical teachings because it's made to sound good and right when in reality it puts the whole group into a box by convincing them that the guidelines are for their personal benefit and hindering gifts and talents that God may have wanted to use for His glory. It is a way of controlling a group of people and if some people had their way they would live without connecting with the outside world for fear of themselves being influenced by a more liberal congregation/denomination that they split off of(I'm thinking of a certain church split)...and yet for all we know, sadly, these people may sincerely believe that what they are doing and have done is pleasing to God. The more I see and research and hear that more I see how twisted things get when people don't make the Bible their guide. People either lean on the side of liberalism or religion. Either one is a ditch. But to walk in the middle between the two is the straight and narrow path that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 7:
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
It may seem to some that this means that Christian life is a restricted life with so many things that a person isn't allowed to do. It may seem that way looking in but I am so grateful for Jesus.
I cannot imagine my life without Him. He kept me from taking my own life. Over the years He has taken me deeper and deeper into healing from past trauma and abuse. I seriously never dreamed that I'd make it to my 30's. So many people I knew had things they wanted to do in their life but I had nothing. No hope, no dreams, no nothing. The only thing I wanted was to live as a hermit so I don't get hurt anymore. God had other plans. He changed my desires. My plans. He gave me hope. New desires. He opens doors and gives me new opportunities each day. He has made life worth living for me. He is so loving and gentle and kind to me. He never criticizes or condemns me. He is the Lifegiver. He certainly has given me new life and as the years go on it becomes more and more abundant. Sure, most days I struggle with triggers and trauma reactions but He continues to bring healing into my life through different avenues and I'm just so grateful. It makes me excited to see what doors He will open for me and how He's going to bring more healing into my life. Because of all He has done and the friend He has been to me there's this overwhelming desire in my heart to find some way to do something in return for Him as it should be in every true Christian's life. We all have seasons we go through and there's times we need to rest. There is nothing wrong with resting.
So the summary of what I'm trying to say is that what makes Christians different from the world are these things:
1.Love: By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35
2.The fruits of the Spirit: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
3.Wisdom: But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:17-18
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1
Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Matthew 10:16
4. Joy/peace/inner strength: Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: John 14:16-17
There is a saying that I really like:
In essentials unity, in non essentials liberty, in all things charity. ~St. Augustine
What would it be like if we could get past our differences as long as we believe in the essentials of the faith(ex. Creation, Jesus died on the cross in our place, etc) and would together in the work of God? Using our gifts and talents to share the Gospel and make the world a better place by touching the lives around us? What if we would continue to walk with our friends even if their beliefs change (not the essentials unless they were wrong in the first place) rather than shunning them by withholding friendship and whatever else that might normally be done? What if we really would have charity in all things, unifying on the core essentials of the Gospel, and allowing each other liberty on the non essentials? How would that look for your life? How would that look for my life? Definitely something to ponder...and something I really want to practice as well...