January 28, 2011: Matthew 5:13-16; Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18

Submitted by Cynthia Peng, Gracepoint Berkeley

Summarize the message of these texts regarding a Christian’s life.  What are Christians called to do and not do because of this identity?

As Christians we are called to be separated from the world, to not conform to their ways, not to be yoked together with unbelievers, not to be partners with them and do things in darkness, not to love the world or anything in the world, not to be friends with the world, and not to have our minds on earthly things and thus become enemies of God.  These are all the things these passages tell us not to do.    These texts tell us to live distinct lives from that of the world, to be the salt, the light in order that our difference can attract people of this world.  We are to expose their darkness with our light and show our good deeds so that it can result in the people of this world praising God.  We are to find out what pleases God and live by it.

What question about Christian life does this answer, or what commonly-held misunderstanding about Christian life might this clarify?

These passages bring to mind the phrase “in the world but not of the world”, as that is what I am called to do.  These passages make it very clear that we are called to be so different from the rest of the world as we are put in stark contrast with clear words like “darkness” versus “light”, “wickedness” versus “righteousness”.  And there are sharp words used against those who love the world, such as “adulterous”, “hatred”, “enemy”, etc.  These clear distinctives leave little room for people who say things like we need to be more like the world so that we can reach out to the world, who take verses like 1 Corinthians 9:20 – “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.” – out of context as a justification for living a compromised, secular life.    At the same time I think these passages answer the question of WHY we have to live such different lives and be so “weird” and not do what we consider to be the “norm” by worldly standards.  In this context, it shows us that we’re not to be weird just for the sake of being weird and different, but it’s because there’s a mission behind it all, which is to turn people of the darkness into the same light that we have found, to do good deeds so that it can result in people of this world praising God.   I think a lot of times we have this misconception of Christian life as just full of dos and donts.  And without understanding the heart of it, it can sound like drudgery, who would want to succumb to such restrictions in your life.  But it makes sense in the context of embracing your identity.  When I got married, I embraced my identity as a wife and didn’t think twice about the dos and donts of marriage, how I’m now restricted and there are things that I cannot do as a married person.  Those were minor and irrelevant in the context of my new identity and mission of loving my husband and treasuring this relationship.  In the same way, when I fully embrace my identity as a Christian and embrace God’s mission to bring others into the same light that I have found, I don’t have to think twice about the dos and donts that are entailed in this relationship. They suddenly seem obvious and something that of course I should submit to and not think twice about in the greater plan of bringing others out of the darkness into God’s marvelous light.    In light of all of this, one point for me to reflect on is how different am I from the world?  Am I living a life that is in stark contrast with the “norm” out there – in terms of how I spend my money (for selfish purposes or others), how I spend my time (consumed in media and personal comfort or serving and loving others and being in God’s word), how I view others (consumed with just my nuclear family or increasing my sphere of concern), etc.  In addition, I need to work on fully embracing the great mission that God has given me and let that shape all of my values and direction of my life.

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Submitted by Jacob Chang, Gracepoint Berkeley

Summarize the message of these texts regarding a Christian’s life.  What are Christians called to do and not do because of this identity?

Christians are called to be distinct from the culture they live in.  The purpose of this distinction is so that the world will see the distinction and glorify God.  This distinction is not a matter of preference.  A Christian is supposed to have a relationship with the living God and this is incompatible with living for things of this world.  The passages make clear that being a friend of the world is equivalent to being an enemy of God.  Christians are specifically called to find out what pleases God, to test and approve his will, and that goes hand in hand with stepping out of the world, not loving the world, etc.  It’s not a suggestion or recommendation; it’s a statement of fact.  You can’t please God and chase after things of the world at the same time.

What question about Christian life does this answer, or what commonly-held misunderstanding about Christian life might this clarify?

These passages clarify the commonly held misunderstanding that God is interested in giving us worldly success or material blessings, and that these are a sign of his favor.  God specifically tells us not to love the world or anything in the world, and that anyone who does love the world does not have the love of the Father.  Since experiencing God’s love is the best thing for us, it is inconsistent to think that God would want to give us worldly success or material blessings (things of this world), which could hinder us from experiencing his love.  This is a warning I need to remember, especially when I come upon a material blessing, such as a promotion or a raise.  It is not necessarily a blessing and may very well become a curse if it causes my heart to become a little less dependent on God.

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