Welcome back for the third and final part of this weekly series. In Part 1 I took a look at a quote from Marvel’s Civil War series and how certain aspects of it can be interpreted as relevant to Christians. Last week I discussed how the Bible tells us that the world will react to Christians who hold onto Biblical worldviews rather than embracing the morals proclaimed by the world. This week we will dive into how the Bible tells Christians they should live within the world, which should bring it all around full-circle.
We now know that the world is going to stand in opposition to a person who holds to the standards set forth in the Bible. The path of least resistance to take is to remain silent, to live in the world but not a part of it. This is the way that many Christians follow, pointing to Scriptures like:
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 in possessions—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 (ESV)
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 2:12 (ESV)
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:4 (ESV)
And these are all excellent Scriptures to live by. We should not love the world or the things in the world. As we are reminded by Jesus, a person cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24) so we must choose whether we serve and love the Lord or serve and love some aspect of this world more. The first commandment of the Bible places God at the head of everything, we shall have no other god (read: idol) before Him (Exodus 20:3). So the first verses warn us not to embrace the things of this world above Him. The second tells us not to blend in and be the same as those who live in the world. We should not be Sunday-only Christians, but allow it to steep in and through our daily lives until it forms the character of who we are. And the third tells us not to be friends with the world, so when the world demands that wrong is right and tells us to “move” from our position, it is our calling as Christians to stand on our foundation, the Bible, and tell them to be the ones to move.
The world loves to throw two things back at Christians when we stand for the Biblical values: don’t judge and love everyone. And yes, the Bible says both of those things in there but that does not call us to conform to a covenant of non-judgment and to be loving pacifists in the world. These things are thrown out the most often when a Christian quotes Scripture as to why something a person is doing, or believing, is not right. And the Bible tells us that “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 (ESV). So when the person gets offended by Scripture that tells them not to do something, they are being convicted in their very soul and the reaction for many is to recoil and point the finger back at us. “Who are you to judge me? Do unto others, turn the other cheek, don’t judge. Isn’t that what your Bible says?” Their reactions are scripted and hollow. If we look at the example of Jesus, we see times when he judged and times when he displayed a righteous zeal.
There is no question that Jesus was accepting of those outside of cultural and societal norms – choosing to dine with tax collectors, speak with a Samaritan woman (see John 4: 1-45), and many other instances chronicled in the Gospels. He did not judge a person based on profession nor by what nationality they belonged to. He healed the sick, whether wealthy or poor, and fed thousands. He loved widely and embraced people from all walks of life. Yet Jesus delivered some very clear messages that one story alone can demonstrate.
A woman is surrounded by Pharisees who had caught her in the act of adultery. They proclaimed that the Law which they followed, the very Law passed down in the days of Moses, called for them to stone that woman for her crime. They asked Jesus what they should do, as a way of testing him. Instead of responding, Jesus bent down and wrote some things in the ground at his feet. They continued to ask him, and he responded that the man without sin should be the first to cast a stone. He bent down and wrote on the ground once more and, one by one, the men went away. We have no way of knowing the words he wrote, but I imagine they were the sins which those Pharisees had hidden in their hearts. When all had left, Jesus asked the woman where her accusers were and whether anyone condemned her. She answered that none condemned her and Jesus answered with two key phrases: “Neither do I; now go and sin no more” (See John 8:1-11).
The world would stop after the “Neither do I” part and use that as proof that Jesus is an example of not passing judgment. But his second phrase is passing a judgment of sort, telling her to sin no more. He wants her to repent, to turn away from the sin in her life, not to go about free from judgment by others. There is a difference between judgment and condemnation. Judgment is pointing out the sin in a person’s life so that it can be addressed, repented of, and removed from their life. Condemnation is the passing of a sentence on the person based upon those sins. As Christians we can do the first. Only God can do the second. Is it not love to tell a person you care about that they are caught in a cycle that leads to unhappiness? Is it not love to want to try and ensure those around you are on the path to eternal life?
Jesus judged the Pharisees more harshly than anyone else. John the Baptist, in Matthew 3, calls them a brood of vipers when they come to his baptisms, and Jesus uses the same phrase as part of his direct address toward the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23. The language he uses towards them is nothing if not judging, and would be seen as being far from loving in the way the world sees love now. Here is just a brief sample from that chapter full of judgment:
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” Matthew 23:13-15 (ESV)
To those who want to use the command to love as a way to bind Christians to pacifism, even Jesus encouraged his disciples to be armed. True, in the Garden, when Jesus is getting arrested, he stops Peter and the others from harming the guards (after Peter slices off an ear), but that was not because he was against self-defense. Rather, Jesus knew that the time had come, that he needed these things to happen in order to fulfill the will of his Father. Before entering the Garden, Jesus tells his disciples: “And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.” Luke 22:36 (ESV). That is a part of Scripture you don’t hear quoted very often, probably because it completely debunks the idea that Jesus was a complete pacifist.
You also have the instance in the temple, where Jesus drove out the money changers while casting over tables and fashioning a whip out of cords (Matthew 21:12-13 & John 2:13-17). Yes, Jesus demonstrated love during the time he spent on this earth. Yet he also showed a righteous zeal in dealing with the moneychangers in the temple and he did not advocate walking around unarmed and unprotected. As Christians, we should follow the example of Christ and work to lead those around us to repentance, to burn with a fiery passion for the Father, and be willing to turn the other cheek to insults but be prepared to defend ourselves should our lives be placed in danger.
Father, I pray for those in this nation who are suffering daily torment and persecution from a world that is hostile toward a Christian worldview. I pray that we would band together as the Body of Christ and work to spark a revival in this nation. When things are difficult, when the world proclaims its loudest that we should give in and conform, let us remain steadfast and rooted in the foundation of Scripture. Let us strive to be more like Jesus in our lives, living with love that not only welcomes all people into our lives and company, but also that is bold enough to help them see the sin in their lives so that it may lead them to repentance. Grant us the strength and encouragement we need to be the salt and light that this nation so desperately needs. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen!