You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. -- James 4:4
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
The Dynamic Tension
I was traveling with some co-workers, both good, honest men, and we observed a billboard with this verse posted along the highway. My colleague who was driving asked what I thought about the sign and why it was worded so harshly, as he saw it. They are decent boys but not raccoons, and my own raccoon-fu was, at best, quite proto back then. As I recall, I said that it was a relative thing, like Jesus telling us we have to hate father and mother in comparison to the love we should have toward our Father in heaven. After all, it is Jesus who told us we are to love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us.
I talked about what the world is yesterday. It’s not necessarily a good place yet it is familiar. I think about the character Brooksie played by James Whitmore in The Shawshank Redemption. Once a person has fully adjusted to life in a prison, the freedom of a more normal life with its openness and lack of structure can be overwhelming. Some of us prefer to remain in the confines to which we have become accustomed.
I said I would like to get beamed up and out of the world. The trouble is that we are called to be in the world though not of the world -- I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world (John 17:14). We are sent into the world as Jesus was sent, agents of reality invading Vanity Fair -- As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world (v.18).
As long as we are dwelling in this tabernacle of meat and bone, we are going to have to interact with the world system. Even if we are not deluded and seduced by it, it remains a fact to be dealt with. Meat and bone reminds me of one of the late Dottie Rambo’s most poetic lines, from “The Holy Hills of Heaven Call Me” -- This house of clay is but a prison / Bars of bone hold my soul . We have to feed this old body and clothe it, walk it around, and accept the effects of time and space, physics, chemistry, and biology. To that extent, we play by the same rules as the world, but we are governed by the truth from another realm. Our true home and our allegiance are in heaven.
We can be friendly to the world, at peace with it unilaterally, from our side, so much as it will allow, but we can’t be friends. Friends necessarily share a common view, a communion. We are to love those who are in opposition to us, but we cannot be yoked to them for we bear the easy yoke of Christ with Him. They have to surrender to Christ. We don’t surrender to the world. As Charles Atlas used to teach us, dynamic tension builds strength.