Being In the World, But Not Of the World… What does this mean?
The Pharisees were big on extra laws and restrictive holiness, so that can’t be it…
Unlike Paul who says he was all things to all people…
What does this mean?
For me it means that, while I am to avoid sin, I am not to avoid everything. There are things that hold no temptation for me, so instead of avoiding them like a prude (making people uncomfortable) I have reached a maturity where I can listen, discuss and possibly persuade someone who is trapped by these desires to overcome their addictions.
This means that if I am not tempted by alcohol, I can minister to the alcoholic, where they are at. Not asking them to come to church or forfeit the gospel, but telling them about Christ’s love where they currently reside, whether it be a bar, home or homeless shelter.
This means that if I am not tempted to shed my clothes, I may become a minister to those who do. Those who strip, are caught up in prostitution, or simply live a lifestyle that says they crave appreciation in all the wrong ways. And I can meet them where they are at, not placing the burden on them to show up in my white-washed world, but rather by going to where they live, work and relax, not as a Pharisee, perfect in my condemnation, but as a sinner who was saved by the same grace that I present to them.
But how am I to do this if my definition of holiness involves my avoidance of all that is unseemly? And am I truly following Christ by keeping my associations pure? Did not Christ walk with prostitutes (Mary M.), thieves (Judas), the greedy (Matthew), terrorists (Simone the Zealot) and women of loose morals (the woman at the well)? Did He not allow a woman to wipe His feet with her hair and kiss Him excessively in her sorrow? (Lk 7:38) Did He ever rebuke her for doing things that ‘appeared’ sinful?
So if this isn’t ‘the appearance of evil,’ then what is?
Perhaps the ‘appearance of evil’ is when we make it look like we are part of the crowd in order to not be made fun of, instead of standing up for what is right. Perhaps it is when we do not clear up misconceptions that keep people from thinking we are Christians who do not agree with them. Perhaps it is when we do not stand up to the bully, making it look like we don’t see anything wrong, for fear of becoming the victim? Perhaps it is not so much the ministry to the sinner that we are to avoid, but the act of not letting the non-believer know, by your actions that you are a follower of Christ?
Both avoiding the sinner where they are at, and allowing the sinner to believe you are like them so they do not mock you are similar at the root. They both keep you comfortable, and do not put you in situations where your Christianity will make you uncomfortable. But is this really ‘taking up your cross’ and fulfilling the Great Commission? Or are both extremes misinterpretations of scripture designed to help avoid what we are really called to do- get into the trenches and save the lost?