In today’s time of being so connected and plugged in, how ridiculous is it that loving our actual neighbors feels so hard to do? Isn’t loving others the very thing we are supposed to do? Yet when I look around my life, I tend to only love others who look like me, act like me, worship where I worship, say the kinds of words I say, vote the same way I vote, and so on.
I’ve gotten it terribly wrong because I don’t like to feel uncomfortable. Instead I choose to feel safe in my little Christian bubble. It’s easier this way.
Operating this way is such a lie, and one we are going to have to fight hard against.
I became a Christian when I was sixteen and I was taught a phrase:“Becky, you should be in the world, but not of the world. This is what the Bible tell us to do.” Have you heard this too? Maybe you’ve even said it. Well have you ever searched for that verse? Let me give you a heads up: It doesn’t exist. At least not in the same place, in one verse.
Let’s look at the verses that, taken together, may be behind this common phrase.
Read John 17:14-16. What does it say about how you should relate to the world?
We are told that the world hates us because we aren’t of it, just like Jesus wasn’t (verse 14). Jesus says that He is NOT asking that we be taken out of the world, only that we would be kept from the evil one (verse 15). And then again, repeating that we aren’t of the world (verse 16). John 17 is likely the place Christians have gotten the call to not be “of the world.” Here we see that we aren’t supposed to follow every whim or trend happening in the world, because we follow Jesus and his ways instead. Some people use this passage to avoid participating in the Halloween activities of the lost friends around them, whether that be in their neighborhoods or community events.
Now read Jesus’ final commission, also referred to as the Great Commission, in Mark 16:15.
Here we learn that we are to go into all the world to proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. This is probably where Christians get the call to be “in the world.” We’re supposed to stay put in this world for the time being, and share the gospel with those who don’t know God. Some people use this passage to instead pursue the people around them during the Halloween season. After all, when else do all of your neighbors (who need to hear the gospel!) come knocking at your door all night long?
Yet the balance is tricky. We know we’re supposed to love those around us, but we don’t want to be like the world. In fear of being too influenced by our sinful culture, we often pull away from the world because we have no idea how to be in it but not of it. So we will just stay in our own little Christian world, safe and protected in our bubble.
But this was not the way of Jesus. He commanded us to “go into all the world.” Not sit home, nor hide in church. Go into the world, all of it—not a single part is excluded. In my view, that includes Halloween. This holiday is such a strategic time to “go into all your neighborhood,” so to speak, and get to know your lost friends, bringing the gospel with you.
Read 1 Corinthians 5:9-13. What is your job in dealing with those “in the world?”
The idea of isolating ourselves from the non-Christians in the world sounded ridiculous to Paul. In his view, it’s not our job to judge them or run away from them. We are told that God judges those outside the church—not us. Our job is simply to proclaim the gospel to them, and we can’t do that if we are constantly isolating from them.
Knowing all of this, let’s create a new statement. Instead of saying a negative statement that only induces fear, let’s instead make a new statement that is fully rooted in Scripture. Here’s an example of what I’ve come up with: Be in the world, protected from the evil one, and proclaim the gospel with your words and your actions.
Spend some time reflecting on what we’ve studied and make your own statement.