Whether you realize it or not many of us Christians are living in a bubble. We exist in a Christian-subculture bubble within the greater context of the culture of our society. Naturally the Christian subculture in America looks different then the Christian subculture in Russia or the Christian subculture in India. But I’d venture to say we have a stronger bubble of subculture that has formed in an effort to sterilize and add Jesus to media influences and give a Christian spin on political stands. In America, we’ve got tons of Christian websites, Christian music, Christian movies, Christian political groups–in effect we’ve created an alternative to just about everything the secular world offers and slapped a Christian-approved stamp on it.
This is not to say that Christians shouldn’t have an influence in areas of science, politics, arts, media and so forth. But I wonder, why have we created a separatist-subculture in which to exist? We wish to influence the world for Christ but does having an entire separate subculture really influence the world? If you wish to make music that honors Jesus and you publish with a Christian label how many non-Christians are you intentionally going to reach? Most of the people who shop at Christian book stores are already going to agree with the gospel and are actively seeking books, music and videos that proclaim that message. In some ways it seems Christians are following an Old Testament call to be a totally separate people.
Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left, that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them, but you shall cling to the LORD your God just as you have done to this day. (Joshua 23:6–8)
Notice here that God is basically telling the Israelites to completely cut themselves off from the foreign nations. He does not want the godless people to cause the Israelites to stumble, sin and worship false gods/idols. This is how God wanted the nation of Israel to live but how does this apply to us today? We are to live in such as a way as though we are not affected or influenced by the world. We are not to be tempted to worship something or someone other than the one true God. This thinking is consistent with New Testament teaching as well.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15–17)
This is not to suggest that as Christians we are to live in a bubble. However, as Christians, are we called to live in a separate society like on a Christian island? Is this how Jesus lived His life? Is this how the early Church operated? It’s clear that Jesus states that we are not of the world and that He has called us out of the world, but what does that mean?
If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:19)
Please notice this passage, like many others, suggests that the world will hate Christians not because of our Christianized-music or our Christian t-shirts or our bumper stickers but simply because we are no longer “of” the world. You might be saying, wait a minute doesn’t the Bible say that Jesus loved the world? We read in John 3:16 that God so loved the world and this clearly does not mean the planet but all human people. When John states that we are not to love the world nor anything in the world he is talking about the mindset of the world (which he further clarifies as lust, desire and pride).
He is warning them against becoming attached to the world or loving something in the world more than Jesus. Even Jesus warns that if we love our mother, father, wife, husband or children more than Jesus they cannot be His disciple (Luke 14:26). We are to love the world as Jesus loves the world (the people in the world) and not be influenced by the humanistic worldview (the mindset and things of the world). This does not mean a total separation from the world. After-all, Jesus sent out His disciples into the world.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
We are to be influencing the world for Jesus. We must go out into the world. Think about the book of Acts for a minute; it outlines the struggles of the early Church and missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul. What’s the big struggle for the early Church (aka Messianic Jews)? It’s the inclusion of the free gift-of-grace towards the Gentiles, is it not? You see, for hundreds of years God had outlined to the Jewish people that they were to remain holy, separate and pure from the worldly influences. They were to be God’s people. They were to be holy. They were to be separate. They were to be pure. There was to be no unclean thing among them. Then Jesus of Nazareth shows up on the scene.
While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:15-17)
You see Jesus shows up and is going around healing people and touching what is unclean. He’s separate yet He is among the people. He goes off to pray for a while but He doesn’t build a Church with fenced walls. He doesn’t start a monastery. He doesn’t write Christian versions of rock-songs to give to the disciples. He doesn’t make cool slogans to be worn on the disciple’s robes. He doesn’t hang out in the synagogues to talk about how the world is going to hell in a hand basket and how we need to be more pure and more holy.
He doesn’t spend all His time in the temple talking about the need for more Messianic shows or how the Bible needs to be put into local theaters or how to somehow make billboards with His face and words plastered all over them. He talks about the Kingdom of God. He talks about living out the Torah and not just talking about the Torah. He doesn’t seem so interested in us advertising what we believe so much as incarnating what we believe.