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Christian & Culture

The chart below describes the four main aspects of the christian life vis-a-vis society and their respective corruptions and exaggerations, or perversions and aversions.

"... seeking the City built without hands."

"We are in the world..."

"...but we are not of this world."

Literal or physical aspect

Intellectual aspect

Emotional aspect

Spiritual aspect

"Love your neighbor as yourself." Also in practical (literal) matters!

"Be the light and salt (enlightenment, preservative & spice!) of this world." "... ahead of time considering the good for the sake of ALL humans."

"We, then, are ambassadors of Christ. Be reconciled with God!"

"The fear of the Lord is to hate evil." "... strangers and sojourners on this earth."

Sympathizing too much with this world. World sympathizer.

Naive and ignorant about society. Too much stress on separation. World fool.

Too impressed by the accomplishments of the world. World friend.

Alone (together) on an island and estranged from society. World stranger.

This world is a great and fantastic place. World lover.

Abortion doctors should be killed. World enemy.

Christian turned enemy of Christ.

The apostle John explains that the things of the world are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life and that he that is a friend of the world, is constituted an enemy of God (these three forms of perversion are pre-eminently seen in James Bond movies; but also most other movies and theater pieces, literature and what have you, keep seducing people along these lines [also as their opposite aversions!]). Therefore, when the Lord says that the Church is the light and salt of the world, He cannot mean that we are to be some kind of appetizer for the world as such. What then does it mean? It must be because the Church, as long as it is light and salt, preserves the world and makes that God puts up with it. But also, when the salt has become tasteless and has lost its flavor, then such Christians will be vomited out. This according to the letter to Laodicea and according to Paul's warning that the wild olive branches can be removed again, and that the natural branches--Jewry--will be grafted in again.

In 1 Corinthians 14. 20 the apostle Paul exhorts us not to be like children in our understanding (the Greek here has 'brains'!), but to be childlike (not childish!) as to evil and that we should be perfect in understanding (again 'brains'). The opposite of being childlike as to evil is to be wise (sic!) in evil (an expression in the O.T.). With 'childlike' the apostle means 'innocent' and certainly not 'naive'! For elsewhere he states that Satan's thoughts are not unknown to us!

If one overemphasizes the spiritual truth that the Church essentially is not of this world, although we are in it, then one will develop an attitude that is too withdrawn and one will invariably become ignorant and therefore naive. If one were to continue further down this road then one is destined to become estranged and incapable, therefore, of witnessing to the world from which one has been called himself. Going down still further on this path, one will end up being an enemy of this world and the duty of loving one's fellow as oneself will be drowned by fanatic rhetoric.

People on the right do not distinguish adequately between creation (and what has been left of it after the Fall) and the world; and in that way a lot of things are considered evil. And when they get sick or break a leg, they all of a sudden need that terrible world. The art is to distinguish in a level headed way whether we have to do with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes or the pride of life or with something good that the Lord has given in creation (so He says that physicians are there for the sick. However the problem is that things are very intertwined). People on the right tend to serve God with self-imposed rules and regulations and more often than not this is out of an exaggerated fear for sin and for the sinful world. Yes, one can be too fearful and too weary of sin and of the world.

On the other hand one can slip away down in a similar way, but instead of into increasingly worse forms of aversion into increasingly worse forms of perversion. The loving ardor of reaching out to sinners can make one overstep the command to hate evil and to forget that we are sojourners in this sublunar veil of tears. The call to love the sinner must never translate into sympathizing with his or her sins. Many Christian organizations have started out with the best intentions only to sink away into a morass of compromising social activities. In this way one can start out as a world sympathizer, become a world friend and end as a world lover. This can happen in a life time and is also seen in the history of established churches over the course of a few generations.

The Pharisees and fanatics fail to let their light shine, because they run away with an exaggerated Separationism and with an ideology that views the world primarily as an evil and incorrigible place and the Sadducees lose themselves in their concern for worldly affairs. The true golden mean can only be maintained if one holds onto the various relevant aspects. Loving the sinner and hating evil, realizing well that we are still in this world, but not being conformed to it and letting your light shine without compromise either on the right or on the left; that together makes for good Christian comportment over against a world that has crucified the Lord.

The one side is handicapped as holier-than-thou Joes and as such is rejected and the other side is not good enough for sinners as they are considered as people that do not go far enough. And in these ways the great adversary divides us and succeeds in making the gospel irrelevant and powerless. This is all bad enough, but to make matters worse Christians start berating and even fighting each other and so turn themselves into a laughable spectacle. Confusion, spiritual ignorance and egotistical lovelessness and even haughty self-conceitedness render many Christians not only powerless but make them an unbearable bunch of fools. At best we are considered as irrelevant and we are tolerated because, in our apathetic lukewarmness, we simply are not noticed and we are lost in the crowd.

The gospel means good message and it seems that in these days we need double the wisdom to rescue it from the awful reputation that is associated with it. But the Lord is the same and He still wants to infuse people with a wisdom that looks beyond this temporary scene and that prepares one for eternity and that at the same time makes us valuable for today. The gospel is not only meant for sinners that are outcasts in this world and that have nobody to expect sympathy from, but is also meant for the rich, the intellectual and the presidents.



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