Christians live in the world, but Christians are not to be of the world. We are God’s possession; bought with a price, and as such, different by virtue of His Grace!
2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (CSB)
Don’t become partners with those who do not believe. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? What agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? And what agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, as God said:
I will dwell and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.
Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord; do not touch any unclean thing, and I will welcome you. And I will be a Father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.
Not a suggestion
It seems fairly clear doesn’t it? Paul isn’t making any bones about the matter. ‘Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord.’ If this is the case then why do we see so many that claim to be a part of the body of Christ seeking to attach themselves to the world we live in? Unfortunately, only appears to be two distinct possibilities
1. They are allowing sin to enter into their lives; thus distorting their intentions.
Romans 7:22-23 (CSB)
For in my inner self I delight in God’s law, but I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body.
The enemy is always attempting to attack us at our weakest point; the flesh. This is a constant struggle despite the gains we see, we are most vulnerable when we feel we have it under control. This battle continues all the days we exist in these bodies of ours.
The believer that manages to keep Christ the center focus in their life is most successful in setting aside the carnal nature of the flesh. Again, never invulnerable to attack, but potentially much better prepared to resist when temptation comes.
The defeated believer allows sin to interfere with their relationship with the Lord and if left unabated ultimately becomes sin’s prisoner.
2. They are simply wearing the label because it is fashionable and fits with their world view.
Matthew 7:21-23 (CSB)
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!’
Sadly, there are impostors that know all the right words and appear on the outside to be one of the family, but haven’t made the commitment to Christ nor subsequently repent. Salvation is imparted by our faith in Jesus, but unless that results in repentance (a change of mind/direction) then there hasn’t been a commitment to Christ. Some of these impostors are very good at simulating The Way but unless the heart has made a change they remain in their carnal state and ultimately Jesus will say ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!’
In either case, the individual is ineffective and in a state of frustration when confronted with this directive to ‘come out from among them and be separate’.
So what does this ‘being separate’ really mean?
Being ‘separate’ doesn’t mean that we as Christians are to isolate ourselves from non-believers. To the contrary, if we are to fulfill the ‘Great Commission’ given to us by Jesus we are going to have to interact with those non-believers. Jesus did this by his example time and time again. The key is that he never participated in their sin. He was always there to show the non-believer the way to His Grace.
To further strengthen this position, I looked up the meaning behind the word ‘separate’ in our opening passage.
Verb: ἀφορίζω (aphorizō)
aphorizō is formed from the preposition apo (“from, away from”) and the verb horizō (“to appoint, designate, define”). In classical Greek it was used for marking off the boundaries of one’s property by pillars. In the NT it carries the idea of “to separate, set apart, exclude.”
What really provides a vivid picture of this separation is it being used for “marking off the boundaries of one’s property”. Immediately, it struck me that ‘our house, our home’, the place we live, us; needs to be marked off and set apart as a clear differentiation between a life focused on self and the attractions of the flesh, and what Jesus intends for us to be.
Rather than be isolated this separated term suggest that we are to be on display as a representation of what God wants His people to be. This is in perfect harmony with the words of Christ in Matthew.
Matthew 5:14-16 (CSB)
You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
An representation of Jesus; He who brought light into darken and who’s light shines within us. Years ago I heard someone say that we need to be mindful of what we do and how we behave as we today, someone may see the only representation of Jesus in us that they will ever see. This is a sobering proposition to be sure, but it is no less true.
Jesus commissioned us to spread His Gospel. He expects us to share His Light, Love and Grace with all those around us.
Let us then be ‘separate’
2 Corinthians 7:1 (CSB)
So then, dear friends, since we have these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from every impurity of the flesh and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
Called to be separate; set apart; an example of the Christ that lives in us. If the world can’t tell the difference between us and the rest of the world there is a serious problem. A problem that only you can address with a repentant heart. Be that a rededication to His will or a first time commitment to Jesus the Savior, it’s time to be ‘different by Grace’.