Posted By: Tim Mannin
ENTRY SIXTEEN in our writing series, EIGHTEEN, which is all about some of in's and out's of this church.
Have we become spoiled?
When I was a kid, family movie night was an event…we had to go to the movie store…we had to hope that the VHS tape was “behind the movie box”…because the store only had two copies of the big summer blockbuster that had just been released. Sometimes we’d have to wait weeks to actually score that VHS rental. Now you can watch any movie you want, anytime. Download it to your TV, your computer, or phone and even if you are still rocking DVD’s you can even get those mailed to your house by Netflix.
This is a small example of how much the world has changed in just the past few decades. Our environment is becoming more and more of a consumer and convenience driven environment. So even if we are spoiled—it’s not our fault—it’s just the world we live in. Right?
The danger with the realities of the world around us is that we can become a product of our environment. I think it’s a fair statement to say that the typical American life is largely a product of our environment – this is a sociological reality for most people.
- Our environment here in OKC says to be a Thunder Fan…so what do we do… we purchase a Thunder shirt!
- Our environment says to drink fancy coffee drinks… therefore we have no problem throwing down $5 for a Latte.
- When I was a kid, our environment said it was cool to have a mullet… business in the front, party in the back…and oddly enough people actually did it.
Are we all just a product of our environment?
Will we do as the world around us does?
This is a big question that requires an honest answer! Think about it – how much does the environment shape our every day living?
The contrast of that is – how much do we shape our every day environment?
Everyone is familiar with the statement…be in the world, but not of it.
For most of us that statement means something to the affect, that although we live here we can’t act like we like it. Is that correct? Is that theologically how we should act? In John 19, when Jesus was on trial before Pilate he even said, “my kingdom is not of this world…”(verse 36).
So, what does it mean to not be of this world?
If we are products of an environment—are we of this world?
If we like the things of this world—are we of this world?
Does this mean we should boycott things? Maybe we should quit going to Disney World, or watching certain television shows, or maybe we should abstain from technology or advancement and cling to simpler times.
This statement—we are in this world, but not of it—kind easily sound like we unfortunately have to stomach the absolute terrible reality of being “in” the world…because we are actually better than the world. I mean, Jesus even said, “my kingdom is not of the world.”
This is how many have interpreted this idea.
This understanding of the idea will cause us to separate ourselves from everything that seems to be of this world…especially anything that seems dark or worldly. So are we supposed to separate ourselves from things like…sin, drunks, crime, the lust of money or sex, pain, drug addicts, broken families, broken people, hatred, un-forgiveness, selfishness, and greed?
I’ll add a few others…the broken, the forgotten, the blinded, the abused, the neglected, those who are all alone, those who have been wrongfully accused, those who know no better, the disabled, the emotional shattered, the harassed and helpless, the poor in spirit…
When we see the things of this world we often try and separate ourselves from it…claiming some sort of rightness in our separation.
Look at what Jesus says in a prayer in John 17:13-18,
13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.
Our statement “in the world, but not of it” may need a little modification.
Jesus obviously stated that he and the believers are not of the world…but this statment is a place of where it begins, not the destination. Not being of the world isn’t where Jesus or the believers are headed—that isn’t the goal. However, when we order the statement—in this world, but not of it—it can seem that being not of the world is our goal.
Jesus actually said it differently…the “not being of the world” portion is simply a stated fact. He is proclaiming that we are a part of the Kingdom of heaven. Then Jesus said in verse 18, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” And let’s not forget verse 15, ”I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”
He prays for our protection as we are IN the world.
So maybe instead of saying “in, but not of” – we ought to say – “not of the world, but sent into it”
Is this confusing yet? Let me write this plainly.
WE ARE NOT OF THIS WORLD, BUT SENT INTO IT.
This is what Jesus said, and saying it this way emphases something different doesn’t it? It rightly places what Jesus is saying to us. The problem is I’m not sure the church in today’s environment knows what it means to be sent into the world. We’ve rested in choosing what we like and are comfortable with in this world and separating ourselves from what we don’t like and are uncomfortable with.
THE KINGDOM THAT JESUS BROUGHT DIDN’T SEPARATE FROM THE WORLD – HE WENT STRAIGHT INTO THE HEART OF IT.
So if I may be so bold…may I ask you about your world?
- Your environment…what does it say about Kingdom?
- Does it say that you are becoming a product of your environment?
- Does it say that you are shaping the environment for the Kingdom?
- Does it say that you are living not of this world, but sent into it?
Living a SENT life is essentially what we talk about so often here at OKC Community. It's becoming someone who goes deep into the world. It's becoming someone who chooses to love people and places even when they are at their worst. It's becoming someone who embraces the opportunity to light a match in the darkest places. Living a sent life is a person who lives the gospel.
Therefore, we have a hope as a church.
That we may become people who are not of this world, but sent into it.