What does it really mean to “come out of this world” and to “be different”?
We know what it does NOT mean: We are not to leave this world physically–by hiding in a monastery somewhere and having no contact with other people of different mindsets. We know that Christ taught us just the opposite. He told us to go INTO the world with His message about the kingdom of God–to be a light to the world–to show by example HOW to live a righteous life even within an unrighteous environment.
This is why attitudes such as–“Depart from me, I’m holier than you”–or–“Unless you join my organization, you are ostracized”–are so terribly wrong. To think that someone must belong to “us” in order to be saved from harm–and unless they do, we must have no contact with them–only displays a total lack of spiritual understanding. To even go so far as to include our own relatives in the category of “excommunicated” or “disfellowshipped” persons –only because they don’t (want to) belong to us–shows an unchristian and ungodly mindset, void of the workings of the Holy Spirit.
On the other hand, we must be careful that the world does not negatively affect us. We are to spiritually “come out of Babylon,” so that we don’t partake of her sins. We must “flee” fornication, adultery and wrong worship. We are not to participate in religious services where false ideas are preached. God is the author of truth. If wrong doctrines are disseminated, you can rest assured that they don’t come from God. That is why we are to TEST the spirits to see whether they indeed reflect pure and sound teachings.
As you can see, this requires of us to walk a fine line. Even though we are to live IN this world, we are not to be part OF it. We are not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers who practice unrighteousness. We are not to participate in the customs of this world. In refusing to do so, we will encounter difficulties and outright hostilities from others. Even though we are told to strive to live in peace with everyone, we will be persecuted if we uphold the righteousness of God. But really, we have no choice in the matter.
We must obey God rather than man. This includes for us, not to participate in Sunday worship and Christmas celebrations. It includes not to join the military and police force, and to refrain from fighting in the wars of this world. It includes our refusal to serve on a jury and to vote in governmental elections. Instead, we keep the weekly Sabbath and the annual Holy Days, tithe faithfully and only eat clean food. As can be easily seen, this kind of conduct WILL prompt consternation, bewilderment and sometimes persecution and hate in some of our relatives and friends. But this is part of God’s command to come out of this world and to be separate. Not that we force the issue and provoke unnecessary discussions with those who don’t understand–but many times, the issue will be forced upon us merely by the fact that they observe us striving to do what is right.
Nowadays, the refusal to keep Christmas is equated by some as unpatriotic conduct. So is, of course, the refusal to support and fight the wars of our country, and to participate in its political campaigns. This wrong mindset can affect us in the Church, if we are not careful.
A minister recently wrote: “If indeed this is a government of the people, then we are responsible for what the government does, at least to the extent of our vote or lack thereof… Called for jury duty, I simply have to be honest and truthful with the facts. It would be my responsibility to protect the innocent and punish the guilty. One’s responsibility as a part of the government, however temporary, is not the same as one’s responsibility as a private Christian. I think that is the main flaw in the old… argument against voting, jury duty, serving in law enforcement or military service.”
This reasoning reflects a total lack of understanding of how the government and jury duty work–showing an extremely naive and uneducated mindset regarding those issues. As ambassadors for Christ, we are to show the world a better way. We are not to try to make this a better place–knowing that only God can and will do this. We are to announce to this world God’s soon-coming solutions to our problems–and voting in governmental elections, condemning someone as a juror or killing our fellow man in times of peace or war, are most certainly not part of our responsibilities today.
As individual Christians, we must show love and mercy to everyone–and we must do good to all, as much as it depends on us. To separate ourselves from our fellow man with a self-righteous and pharisaical mind-set is contrary to God’s explicit commands. But so is a desire to be a part of this world and to live like all the others do. It’s often a fine line, and only the wisdom of God will show us where to draw that line.