Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Separated or Isolated?

But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to the disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”
Lk 5: 30-31.

She was born in Africa, a nurse practitioner and the daughter of a missionary doctor, now dressed in white, turning from the minister and rocking to the music. The young man at her side was a physician, raised in South Carolina, beaming at the beauty of his bride. All eyes turned as the rows of Burundi immigrant children sang out choruses of praise to an African beat.

The wedding was not unfolding on an African plain or forest floor; this was backyard Memphis, Tennessee. The couple had met years before and finally fell in love as they worked together among the poor in inner city Memphis. Not only did they work for the poor---African Americans, African immigrants, Hispanic, Caucasians---they lived among them with homes in the inner city, committed to serving Christ within the community of the unfortunate, beaming with joy, rocking to the African beat.

There is a real difference in being separated from the world and being isolated from it. When God calls us to be separate from the world, he is speaking of character, goals, desires and commitments. In all of these areas of life, our focus as Christians is to be different from those who do not love Christ. These differences in focus and in the actions that follow separate our thoughts and actions from those of the world. For example: the chief goal in our lives and the actions dictated by that goal cannot be focused on financial success. Financial success in our lives should only be a means to an end toward our chief goals of loving God, bringing Him glory and partnering with Him to redeem the world. Therefore, our aspirations and actions regarding the financial success separate us from the aspirations and actions of the world. The same is true for many other areas of our lives.

On the other hand, this separation from the world should not lead to isolation from the people of the world. If we let ourselves become isolated from people who do not know God, it becomes very difficult to partner with Christ in redeeming His world, and nearly impossible to bring Him glory. The young medical couple described above understand God’s plan for engagement with the world and, with many others, reject this idea of isolation, moving into the neighborhood of the poorest in Memphis in order to redeem and to bring God’s glory to the poor.

Most of us Christians spend most of our non occupational time within an enclave of Christian friends, doing Christian things, rarely touching the lost and broken. Our desires and commitments may or may not be separated from the world, but we are certainly isolated from the world and thus isolated from the work that God would have us do for Him there.

What steps do I need to take to separate my character, my goals, my desires and my commitments from those who do not know Christ?

What steps do I need to take to engage the people whom Christ came to redeem rather than isolate myself from their world?

Dear God,
Help me to be different from the world. Help me to seek You as my chief goal in life. Then help me take that difference into the places and to the people of this world where I may most bring You glory. Amen

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