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The World

How should Christians relate to the world around them? 

Our society is a big shouty place. Our voices may be small, compared with the bellowing of an elephant, the thunderclaps of a mighty storm or the clashing cascades of a waterfall, but we have technology to beef up our feebleness and create a rather loud noise in the process.

Four generations ago we would have heard of foreign wars through our daily newspapers. Three generations ago it would have been also through BBC radio. Two generations ago it would have been also through the television. A generation ago it would have been more or less the same. The current generation can now watch the conflict in real-time through the many communication networks that vie for our attention. The World is now available at the touch of a button (subject to broadband contract, TV licence or mobile phone tariff).

Like it or not we are all trapped in this Global Village, force-fed news, opinions, commentary, and entertainment and, whether we realise it or not, we are all equally exposed to the spin and whims of the news-makers, opinion-formers, commentators and entertainers. Do we passively allow this to wash over us, blowing us hither and whither, depending on what newspaper we read or which blog, newsfeed or information channel we subscribe to? This is our current default, but it is not our factory setting.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

We are not animals, doomed to a bit part in the circle of life, living purely to procreate and to provide sustenance to whatever lurks on the next step in the food chain. If most of us examine our lives we would admit that, yes we too live for (the act of) procreation, but we are certainly not at the mercy of predators. But are we? The World can devour us in other ways. It does so through invisible bonds about which we can live our lives in total ignorance.

What is your vice? Sex, money (acquiring it and/or spending it), power, fame, food, alcohol, drugs, gambling, computer games, television? What is your addiction? Same list, but with bonds just that little bit tighter. All have one thing in common. Each take you away from fulfilling the potential that is inside all of us, whether it is creativity, compassion, gifts or talents. Each stop you from reaching out to others, from working for the common good, from making your Creator happy and proud of you, His special creation. Think about this, then re-read the factory settings.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

We really are special to God; we are spiritual beings as well as physical beings, yet how many of us live in wholeness, with both natures working together in harmony? The imbalance may be fed by what society throws at us, with its promises of sex, money, power, fame and the rest of them, but the decision is always ours to make.

We deserve better than this and, for all the advantages of modern society, there’s a price to pay. Of course many have broken out of this circle and have lived fruitful altruistic lives full of purpose, though, without the assurance of a higher power, they would be missing one particular ingredient … hope. Which brings me to the Christian life.

We Christians too live in the Global Village. But does the Global village live in us? Yes, it’s a cliché, but it’s merely a paraphrase of Paul’s warning to us.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is -- his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

Well, how many times have we heard that one preached! Yet have we really allowed it to sink in? It’s the pattern of this World that is the key phrase and Paul’s warning is a truly prophetic statement that has never been more relevant than in the present situation.

But if you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. (James 3:14-15)

Here James describes the pattern of the World, governed by wisdom that is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil – the more familiar World, the flesh and the devil. The activity of the devil is familiar, as are the lusts of the flesh, but the wisdom of the World is not so well documented. But it is quite straightforward, as the abiding principles of the World in which we live were formulated by the philosophers of ancient Greece, over 2,000 years ago and they have not wilted with age. This is to be contrasted with the abiding principles in the kingdom that Christians abide in, a mindset birthed from within the pages of the Bible and packaged and distributed to all who wanted to hear by the Man from Galilee, Jesus Christ.

“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you”. (John 15:19)

A Christian, then, is someone who lives in the World but does not belong to it. So it’s a matter of treading that dividing line, of living as a common citizen of the World, but living in a bubble that protects us from being corrupted by it. But this bubble is meant to be visible; the World is meant to know that we are not quite one of them and hate us for it!

For the previous article in this series, click here.

For the next article in this series, click here.

To find out what is my favourite book of the Bible, click here.

You can reach Steve with any comments or questions at the Saltshakers Web Community website.

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