Speaking about Christians being in the world but not of the world necessarily implies that we are interacting with the world around us.
Even though the world might not always move in the direction we want it to and even though we keep our mind on our higher purpose as I emphasized on Wednesday, that doesn’t mean we run into the forest and hide like hermits from all human interaction.
Obviously, the Great Commission directs Christians to go into all the world and make disciples. You can’t really do that by avoiding human contact altogether. We are necessarily in the world while we going.
Similarly, consider the words of Paul to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1. Paul tells Timothy specifically to remain in Ephesus to oppose teachers of false doctrine. He isn’t running away from his call to interact with the world around him. He is supposed to make the world a better place by leading people towards truth and away from falsehood.
We never forget our higher priority. Like Gandalf, we never forget that our more important mission needs to come first. Following Jesus Christ needs to be higher than our obligation to the world. We are not of the world anymore once we are a new creation in Jesus Christ.
That being said though, because we are still literally here in the world, we can still love our neighbors. Jesus pointed out that the second greatest commandment after loving God with all of our hearts, souls and minds is loving our neighbors as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39).
Of course, our specific calling might look different depending on our talents and abilities. God might use you differently than He uses me. However, I can pretty much guarantee you that both of our callings will put us somewhere where we need to interact with the world.
As a final thought about this topic, consider the ever popular beginning of Romans 12.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform 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 12:1-2, NIV).
We are transformed from our former worldly selves. We are no longer children of the world. However, the end result of this change is that we are going to be able to see God’s will at least a little bit more clearly so that we can do our best to follow it.
As you read the rest of this chapter, Paul writes about how we interact with other people in the world. He talks about using our abilities to benefit the body of Christ and how to relate to other people.
We are not confined to the world, and we do have a higher hope and purpose. As intellectually consistent Christians, we can be incredibly grateful for that. As I talked about on Monday, I am grateful that there is more to reality than simply what we find on earth. However, being in the world is also part of my reality. I am here and I am commanded by Jesus Christ to love people.
Therefore, we find a very important balance of literally being in the world and recognizing that we are not of the world anymore.