- Same-sex marriage is a reality no matter what the Supreme Court decides.
- Legalized killing of the unborn is not going away.
- Legalized persecution of Christians for adherence to their religious beliefs is growing.
- Government schools insist on teaching doctrines counter to those of the Bible-believing faithful.
The list above could be much longer. But let’s just leave it at that, for the moment.
At what point do Christians recognize they have effectively failed to serve as salt and light in their culture and begin withdrawing from American “mainstream” society for the sake of their own children and obedience to God rather than man?
It’s a big question. And it’s time to consider the consequences of business as usual and “tolerance” of evil.
I’ve been pondering this question for some time and studying what God tells us through His Word. Here’s what I believe it tells us.
First of all, while Christianity has defined American culture, to one extent or another, it clearly has lost its grip. This is not unique in history. Rather it is rare that Christians have dominated a culture. America may be the best example ever.
So what can we learn from the experience of others, including the Apostles, who lived as minorities in hostile cultures with most being martyred for their commitment to their convictions.
The Apostle Paul addressed this head on in 1 Corinthians 5. His answer was to clean up our own house first, make certain we are living lives set apart from sin and rebellion against God’s laws. Too often we don’t, preferring to assimilate, live like the pagans, embrace their ways.
He wrote: “It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.”
What Paul is saying here is quite clear – which is not always the case, as even Peter noted.
Not only are we to separate ourselves from those non-believers who are living sinful lives, we are first to separate ourselves from those who call themselves believers and do so without repentance.
But note that Paul also invokes the idea that we are to be ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).
How do we reconcile those two seemingly contradictory ideas – separation and ambassadorship?
Just so there is no confusion about what the Bible states clearly and repeatedly about rejecting “worldliness,” here are a few other passages to consider:
- Romans 12:2: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
- 2 Corinthians 6:14: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”
- Colossians 2:8: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”
- James 1:26-27: “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
- 1 John 2:15: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
At the same time, we are instructed to be salt and light in the world:
Matthew 5:13-16: “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
Are these ideas in conflict?
No, but there is a tension between them.
Christians have lost the fight to preserve the culture in America. It may not be totally hopeless. In fact, I would suggest to you that if Christians in America follow the biblical instruction, many of the lost will be saved because of the example we set.
Yet, the bigger risk is to permit the world to define us, to embrace the world, even reluctantly, and to conform to it.
Not since the Civil War have Christians in America faced tougher questions that will affect not only their relationship with God, but their children’s and their neighbors’ and their nation’s.
My adult life has been geared to engaging the culture with a better way to live. But we are rapidly approaching a time, I believe, in which we as believers need to consider erecting barriers between ourselves, our families and our churches and a culture that is descending into the pit of abject apostasy.
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