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

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Dynamic Tension

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

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. 


USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Sorry world, it'll never work out. It's not me, it's you.

It's almost humorous all the different ways that folks interpret God's warning about being friends with the world.
Some by fellow Christians.
Well, humorous and sad.

Imagine my surprise when I visited a church only to learn I was going to hell if I listened to anything but gospel music, or read anything besides the Bible!

The Preacher was quoting the verse you quoted, Mushroom.
And man, he was on a roll, going over the top and well beyond the meaning of the verse.

That's one of the few churches I ever walked out on during the service but my "this is nuts" meter was redlining.

What you said makes sense, while not falling into the trap that Preacher was making.

mushroom said...

I have often heard similar preaching. Everybody thinks that what they are doing is virtuous and what they dislike is wicked. How many preachers who can't see their shoes for their guts rail against drinking and smoking?

Don Brankel -- I think he's still living -- is an Assembly of God evangelist. He used to be fairly rotund. Before Jimmy Swaggert got in so much trouble, Don used to be associated with him. Don was part of one of Swaggert's panel discussions, and Jimmy asked a question about the KJV word "surfeiting". He was asking if it meant the same as "gluttony" and happened to be standing right in front of Don, who put his head down on the table and said, "Oh, Lord, don't start on that!"

I always liked Brother Brankel. He used to preach at campmeetings. One time he was at the district campmeeting in Rocky Mount, Missouri, on Lake of the Ozarks. We were there, my wife and I, sitting a few rows back in the old tabernacle. Don stepped up to the pulpit and called for his wife, Neta, to stand up. I understood what he said, but, I guess, my wife and a bunch of other women thought he was asking for all the wives to stand up. Fifteen or twenty women started standing up, including Sister Brankel. Don's face turned bright red, and he hollered, "I had wives I knew not of!"

It was pretty funny.

John Lien said...

Good post and comments guys.

It's a tough message to convey -rejecting the world and all that. I believe one comes to it naturally as you walk the path. So, when you hear such talk it is received as acknowledgement rather than instruction.

Now, staying in the world, in and not of it and radiating light? That's more of a challenge for me.

mushroom said...

Yes, I tend to suck up light like a black hole.