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

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


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; as God said, I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. -- 2 Corinthians 6:14-16

Yesterday we talked about our witness to an unbelieving world, about hating sin while seeking to rescue those tangled in its snares.  We understand, too, that we each have our individual weaknesses and have to watch ourselves around certain situations.  We want to reach out to people, but can we be friends with those who reject Christ?  Matthew Henry thought not:

The caution also extends to common conversation. We should not join in friendship and acquaintance with wicked men and unbelievers. Though we cannot wholly avoid seeing and hearing, and being with such, yet we should never choose them for friends. We must not defile ourselves by converse with those who defile themselves with sin.

I have to disagree with that interpretation.  Too much in Scripture points a different direction.  Jesus was a friend of sinners.  Now it is true that those with whom He associated were often repentant seekers, or perhaps people seeking to repent; nevertheless, He broke with the pharisaic view of complete separation.  At the same time, those tax collectors and prostitutes were mostly Jews or sympathetic to the people and faith of Abraham, with the possible exception of the Syrophoenician woman whose daughter was afflicted (Mark 7:24-30).

In our case, when the overall culture was more permeated with Judeo-Christian values, it was probably easier to be a friend of sinners.  At worst we were dealing “cultural Christians”.  I heard John Starnes, the gospel singer, give his testimony.  Before he came to Christ, he had someone ask him if he was a Christian.  He replied, “Of course.  I’m an American.”  That reminds me of a convict I was talking to one time.  He was a black guy, and he was wearing a scarf over his head, kind of Arab fashion.  Nation of Islam is extremely popular in prison.  I knew this guy, and we talked all the time, but I’d never seen him with that headgear, so I asked him if he was a Muslim.  He said, “Hell no, man.  I’m a Baptist!” 

However, it seems to me, perhaps because I am getting old and because I don’t get out much anymore, that our nation is becoming less “Christian” in its overall morals, ethics, and mindset.  The zeitgeist is not the Holy Ghost. Our public discourse is saturated with lies and deception.  We have become decadent.  The most egregious immorality is excused when it is not lauded and celebrated. 

In this world, in this society, the idea of separation starts to make more sense.  We do risk becoming contaminated when we allow ourselves to be immersed in vulgarity, lust, and violence, baptized in nihilism. 

Perhaps the balance comes in being open vertically only to God while searching for kindred and lost treasures in the horizontal.  It’s like being in a surface-supplied diving suit, tethered and connected to a source of fresh air and power by a diver's umbilical giving us light and life as we explore the murky depths looking for that which may be saved.  As long as we remain in the suit – having put on Christ, the new man – and don’t break our connection, we can stay down here and do our job.  Our life is always, though, above, and we can never forget that we are in -- but not of, this world.


julie said...

For some reason, the care of Ebola patients comes to mind, how it destroys families and caregivers by preying on the very mechanisms of human caritas. To save the patient without becoming infected oneself, one must use layers upon layers of separation, and vigorously adhere to the rituals of purification. The penalty for failing to do so is too often death. The surest way to be safe, of course, is to stay far away - across an ocean with no possibility of commerce, for instance. But for the places where it is right next door, or in one's very home, what then?

And yet, there is a glimmer of hope, for those who have been infected and survived are likely to be immune thereafter. They may care for the sick with less protection; their bodies have already conquered the disease, though not without great cost. Indeed, in some cases their blood seems to hold the very cure...

Who better to minister to the unclean, than those who have already withstood the ill effects?

As with most things, I think the rule of separation depends very much upon the greater context. Sometimes, it is necessary to withdraw, but ultimately withdrawal can be its own kind of extinction.

mushroom said...

Yes, that's exactly right. A lot of us have been infected and survived. We can go back in.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"However, it seems to me, perhaps because I am getting old and because I don’t get out much anymore, that our nation is becoming less “Christian” in its overall morals, ethics, and mindset. The zeitgeist is not the Holy Ghost. Our public discourse is saturated with lies and deception. We have become decadent. The most egregious immorality is excused when it is not lauded and celebrated."

Recently, I read Ben Franklin's autobiography that he authored, and, unfortunately it was not completed, not in his own hand that is.

I was struck by how oftenhe concious.y endeavored to build good character and attempted to make habitual good habits that improved his ethics and morality, from a young age throughout his life.

Franklin stressed this more than anything else, believing God is more concerned about how we treat our fellow man than pretty much anything else.
And how we must be working to perfect our virtues and practise them if we wanna do better and be better.

He even created a log to chart his progress as he worked on developing virtues amd good character, marking where he had failed, butnoting as he practiced how he got better at it, althoughhe never claimed perfection.

It was his hope that future generations would also hold having good character in high esteem, so I can only imagine what he would think of modern day America,
let alone the horrible journalism that has become the norm.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I like the examples you n' Julie used.
Those are yokes we should strive for, supplied by the grace of God.

mushroom said...

That's true, Ben. Franklin was one of those who understood that only a virtuous people are capable of liberty.