Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lifted and Separated

And I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair. And I made them take oath in the name of God, saying, You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves.  -- Nehemiah 13:25

This is not advocacy for racism or tribalism.  There is the aspect that Paul touches on when he tells us not to be unequally yoked, though the passage in 2 Corinthians 6 goes beyond marriage in its implications:  Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?  What accord has Christ with Belial?  Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?  What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God (vv 14-16).

As Christians we need to separate ourselves from the world, and it is not easy.  I go to some site that is otherwise useful and informative and find provocative pictures to generate more traffic.  I turn on the television to catch the weather report, and I am subjected to all sorts of images during the commercial breaks and endless celebrations of the latest revelations of skankiness among the skanks.  For somebody my age, the sexual aspects are less of a hook than they used to be.  I’m more likely to be entrapped by the snares of greed and acquisitiveness which is a constant in this age.

Sometimes I am afraid, even after all these years and all I have seen – afraid that I am missing out.  I suspect that I am not alone in this.  The Amish seem fascinated by my motorcycle.  I sometimes wonder if I am corrupting them just by riding through their country.  Fear of missing out drives the purchase of many things, including lots and lots of pills. 

James 4:4 asks, Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?  It seems a little harsh, a little exclusive, maybe a little intolerant.  In fact, it is antagonistic.  We are at war.  [W]hoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.  Nehemiah’s rather extreme reaction makes a lot more sense when we realize that he was dealing, in effect, with traitors, with rebels who had sided with the enemies of the Lord.  But I have to ask myself if I have not been guilty of the same thing.  I want to get along.  I don’t want to make the people around me feel bad.  I don’t want to be tagged as someone weird.  I’ve been called every name in the book just because I am less than excited about celebrating All Saints’ Eve. 

A few years back, one of the managers got me moved to another site because I didn’t go out the bars after work.  Oddly enough, it worked out to my advantage.  Some people don’t like outsiders.  They like agreement and consensus.  They like endorsement and confirmation.  Telling some folks that they can do as they please is not enough.  They are not happy until you join them – not because they care about you or desire your company in a personal way.  They crave the sense of approval they get when everybody joins in.  

When we follow God instead of the crowd (even if the crowd gathers in a church building), we become targets.  We can be as circumspect and cautious as we like.  We can try to avoid giving offense.  They still, for some reason, manage to be offended.  I have been asked if I think that I am better than other people.  The answer is no.  Perhaps I am worse and weaker, more easily shackled by a bad habit. 

I have to answer to God for what I do and with whom I associate.  There may be times when it is less critical, when we can afford to be a little less strict.  But when the darkness falls and the storm breaks, we had better be on the right side.

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