Continuing this thought of being in the world but not of the world, I think that it might be useful to look at an example.
If you have read The Hobbit, you will recall that Gandalf only accompanies the company of Thorin Oakenshield for part of their journey towards the Lonely Mountain. While he was away from them, Gandalf was busy driving the Necromancer out of his fortress in Mirkwood Forest.
When we think about Gandalf relative to the dwarves and their journey, he was in the world, but he was not of the world. He certainly took part in the journey that he found himself in. He provided help in difficult moments in much the same way that Christians provide light to the world today. We do things to help people around us while we’re here because that is what we are on mission to do.
However, Gandalf never lost focus of his higher purpose. He had to drive a great evil from the forest, and he did that because it was a threat to everyone. We see the implications of that great evil while reading The Lord of the Rings. Therefore, Gandalf had to abandon the dwarves temporarily to address the larger issue that was at hand. He was not of the dwarves’ world even though he was in it. His concerns were different than theirs.
The world isn’t going to understand our priorities. If you asked the dwarves, they would have much preferred Gandalf to remain with them. After all, it is helpful to have a powerful wizard in your company. They didn’t always understand why he had to go places without them. They felt abandoned because they were both in the world and of the world of their journey.
You might find this in your life. You might find that people don’t understand why you don’t go out partying every Friday night. You might find that people don’t understand why you don’t want to live with your girlfriend before you get married.
Like Gandalf, we have a sense of purpose that doesn’t allow us to remain wrapped up in the mission of the dwarves. Even though the dwarves are setting out to do some good things, there is a greater mission that Gandalf leads to take care of in order to make the world a better place.
That is just like our Christian walk. I know plenty of non-Christian people who are doing great things, and we can work together on these things. We can all volunteer to help the homeless together, and that would be a good thing. The dwarves’ mission to regain their homeland was a good thing, and it was good that Gandalf was taking part in it.
As Christians, we might have to break off every now and then. Even though those people around us might want to us to stay on their path, we might have to answer to a higher calling. We might have to go out and fight the Necromancer of this world. Our highest commitment is not to the world; it is to the Ruler of the universe.