In the World, Not of It

Posted by on 03/20/2018 in:

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. —John 17:15-16 NIV

IN THE WORLD, NOT OF THE WORLD

How are God’s people supposed to engage the broader culture around them? There is much confusion around the topic of cultural engagement. Whereas some Christians choose to ignore culture, others rail against it. And others are seduced by it.

The Bible calls us to engage the broader society while retaining a distinctive Christian identity and purpose. We need to think deeply and clearly about what it means to engage secular, pluralistic culture, especially in our work.

Many Christians are confused about how and to what extent they should engage the world. For this reason, discussing cultural engagement requires humility and submission to God. We need to realize that if we do not think carefully about how to engage the culture, we may succumb to the ways of the culture that are not pleasing to God when we decide to engage it. Pastor and theologian Tim Keller explains:

“The reality is that if the church does not think much about culture – about what parts are good, bad, or indifferent according to the Bible – its members will begin to uncritically imbibe the values of the culture. They will become assimilated to culture, despite intentions to the contrary. Culture is complex, subtle, and inescapable…. And if we are not deliberately thinking about our culture, we will simply be conformed to it without ever knowing it is happening.”

4 MODELS OF CULTURAL ENGAGEMENT

Keller then reviews four different models of cultural engagement:

  1. Being relevant to the culture to live winsomely (joyfully)
  2. Transforming culture to the decrees of Christ when possible
  3. Living counter-culturally to shine the light of Christ
  4. Recognizing that there are two kingdoms- the kingdom of the world and the kingdom of God

According to Keller, each of these four Christian approaches to cultural engagement can help us discern how to engage the world in a fruitful and faithful way. There is not one uniform approach that should dictate how a Christian engages the world. Rather, there is a need for significant spiritual discernment in the difficult balance of being in the world, but not of it.

EVERY DAY DECISIONS

Every day we are faced with decisions about how we should engage the world in our work. For example, many of us have to make decisions about which clients to take on, whose lead to follow and what causes to stand for. And our decision-making inevitably entails all sorts of trade-offs, compromises and ambiguity. We often find ourselves living and working in gray areas, questioning how intentional or effective we are with respect to engaging the world distinctly as Christian.

How do we know where we can and should be flexible for the sake of a greater good? How far is too far before we lose our distinctiveness as Christians? The answers to questions like these will need to be considered case by case, with the wisdom of Scripture and other Christians. But the four approaches provided by Keller above are a good starting point. We must realize, with humility, that different situations require different approaches. Nevertheless, as Christ’s disciples we are called to engage the world so that we might win some to Christ and see his kingdom advance on earth

APPLICATION

How can you engage culture distinctly as a Christian in your day-to-day life?

What parts of culture are good to participate in? Also, what are the benefits? Think about Jesus’ ministry.

NIV FAITH AND WORK BIBLE

This blog content was taken directly from the NIV Faith and Work Bible. It contains doctrine, Scripture application, and real-life experiences to help you answer this fundamental question: “How does my faith relate to my work?”

So, it doesn’t matter what job you have. You could work mid-shift, freelance, or part-time. You could be a teacher, a politician, or even a marketer. This Bible will have something relevant for you to apply to your daily work life.

Learn more about the NIV Faith and Work Bible here.

4 Comments

  • Toni says:

    Thank you I totally agree. We are in the world and not of it. Love should always prevail because we should always want Christ to be seen especially in difficult circumstances 💜

  • This view is very true and I add a voice here that God translated us at our spiritual rebirth into the Kingdom of His Son. (Colossians 1). We need to grow in the wisdom of God. This wisdom directs us in God’s path or ways.

    We are transformed in our mindset that we’re able to live in the knowledge of His will for our generation. The new mindset is ONLY enabled by the Spirt of God in us. It surely requires humility – submission to the word of the Lord. The anointing sets our conformity to follow and obey Gods instructions in our everyday living.

    We need to engage the Holy Spirit to grant us greater revelation/understanding in the knowledge of His Will. Blessings.

  • Larry Teal says:

    A boat in the water floats. A boat filled with water sinks.

  • Dave Hopwood says:

    In my speaking and writing work I draw on our culture to help folks connect with the Bible; so to me films, TV, news stories, comedy etc are not so much ‘christian’ or not, they are all vehicles for communicating about God. In the same way that Jesus took stories from his history and culture and turned them into his parables. I often use the example of Paul taking Roman armour and using it to communicate the things of God. Romans back then were feared, and yet to Paul they became a useful vehicle.

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