From start to finish, the Scriptures call God’s people to be different from the rest of the world. We are called to be separate. To be distinct from the culture. The apostle Paul sets his argument up in 2 Corinthians with a series of five rhetorical questions in which the answers are all negative. The answers to his questions are either none or nothing.
What do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Nothing.
What fellowship can light have with darkness? None.
What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? None.
What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? Nothing.
What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? None.
What true Texan roots for the New York Yankees? None.
Paul could have gone on and on. And he kinda does. But he’s making the point that this point doesn’t really need making. It’s obvious. The Kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world are at severe odds. They always have been. We are called to stand out to the world as being very different from the world.
Now, let’s be clear, Paul is not talking about Christians withdrawing from the world. He’s not saying that Christians should only do business with other Christians, that we should only live in Christian neighborhoods, and eat only with other Christians in Christian restaurants. He’s not saying we have to play on Christian sports teams and go to Christian schools and exercise with Christian yoga groups at Christian church buildings. Those kinds of things aren’t even options, and never have been, throughout most of the world throughout all of history. Being involved in and in community with non-Christians is not only unavoidable and necessary, it’s actually essential for the spread of the Gospel. Paul’s not talking about a church commune out on a big ranch somewhere or a Christian compound up in the mountains. He’s talking about purifying the Christian community in order to do ministry.
We will not be able to minister to the world and thus fulfill God’s purpose for his church unless we show the people of the world that we are different.
From Resident Aliens by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon:
“The most interesting, creative, political solutions we Christians have to offer our troubled society are not new laws, advice to Congress, or increased funding for social programs. The most creative social strategy we have to offer is the church. Here we show the world a manner of life the world can never achieve through social coercion or governmental action. We serve the world by showing it something that it is not, namely, a place where God is forming a family out of strangers.
The world needs the church, not to help the world run more smoothly or to make the world a better and safer place for Christians to live. Rather, the world needs the church because, without the church, the world does not know who it is. The only way for the world to know that it needs redeeming is for the church to point to the Redeemer by being a redeemed people. The way for the world to know that it needs redeeming, that it is broken and fallen, is for the church to enable the world to strike hard against something which is an alternative to what the world offers.”
The ministry of the church is not just to spread a message. The goal of the ministry is not merely information. We don’t assemble together and live and die together like we’re students in a classroom taking notes on theology. We are a pocket of God’s presence in the world. And from this pocket of God’s presence we are taking his world back from enemy hands. We live in enemy occupied territory. And God uses our alternative faith community and our transformed ways of thinking and speaking and acting to win it back.
“God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” ~1 Thessalonians 4:7
Speaking of Hauerwas, score another one for P-Grove! My great friend Jim Martin has been announced as the new vice-president at Harding School of Theology in Memphis. Jim is a godly man; beyond reproach; trustworthy and true. Our God speaks to Jim and I know that Jim listens. He is God’s dear friend. And I believe our God regards Jim as one of his greatest servants. And now our Lord has given him that next job.
If the people he leads at Harding receive just a tiny fraction of the blessings and strength and wisdom that Jim has given to me… Man, I can’t imagine the great impact this is going to have on God’s eternal Kingdom.