What Does It Mean to Be 'Of the World'?
Q. At church I've heard we're to be "in the world, but not of it." What's that even mean? Is that in Scripture?
A. That exact phrase might not be in the Bible, but the truth it represents certainly is. It means that Christians live in this world, surrounded by the temptations, immoralities, greed, jealousies and consumerism of our fallen world—but our loyalty is elsewhere.
In other words: We may be in this world, but the world's values are not what we live by. It's the difference between your physical location and where your heart longs to be.
Peter writes, "You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" (1 Peter 2:9, NIV).
And in Philippians 2:15 (NIV), Paul writes, "Become blameless and pure, children of God … in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe." Later in Philippians, Paul describes most people around us, saying their minds are on earthly things, but not us. Instead, as he says, "our citizenship is in heaven."
As we strive to be citizens of heaven and not of the world, we need to daily ask ourselves: How is my life different from those who don't believe in God? How do I demonstrate God's love toward unlovable people? How are my values different?
Marshall, a former pastor, is editor of Leadership Journal, a magazine for pastors.
Copyright © 2008 by the author or Christianity Today/Ignite Your Faith magazine.
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