In, Not Of
Faced with persecution and marginalization, Christians have often felt like prisoners, citizens of heaven biding their time on a hostile earth. This feeling sometimes leads us to adopt ways of thinking that hold us back from being a truly transforming presence in our world.
On the night of His betrayal, Jesus prayed, not that God would snatch His people out of the world, but that He would protect them from the evil one. We can take heart in knowing that this world is the place Jesus wants us to be. But living in the world without being of the world still puzzles Christians.
Many believe that to be “in and not of” means to eek out a physical existence on planet earth while participating in as few “worldly” activities as possible. Retreating to our Christian ghetto of activities, music, books, and bracelets, we eventually separate ourselves until we are neither of nor in the world in any true sense at all.
Others believe that to be in the world means to dive headfirst into the world’s way of doing things – adopting the prevailing culture’s lifestyles, values, philosophies, and actions. But these adapt so well that they can hardly prove they are not of the same material as the lost people around them.
Salt is no good in the saltshaker. God calls us to be a preserving influence that flavors the world we live in. But salt without saltiness isn’t any good either. Jesus does not pray that we will be taken out of the world, whether by our own retreat to the Christian fortress that stands aloof and distant from the lost world around, or by accommodating our beliefs to culture. He prays that, while we shine our light in the darkness, we will be kept from the evil one. We are in, not of. We should join our voices and echo the prayer of Jesus – that God would keep us from evil while we fulfill His purpose for us on earth.