What the World Needs Now (Jul-Aug 1998)

By Matt Dabbs

by Mike Cope
July – August, 1998

33As Christians follow the steps of Jesus in relating to the people of this world, we begin by remembering that, as an old song says, “this world is not my home.” We live here, work here, play here, and raise families here. But we don’t exactly belong here. That’s why early Christian writers would refer to the people of faith as “aliens.”

All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.

“Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorif God on the day he visits.”

That is also why the apostle Paul would point out that since our lives have been redefined by the life, death, and resurrection of Christ and since we are now waiting for him to return, “our citizenship is in heaven.”

The most powerful thing the people of God can do in this world is to live as the people of God! God has placed us in communities of faith where the faith, hope, and love of the gospel can be lived out.

Admittedly, this “plan” has always been less than satisfying. Many seem to long for the “good old days” (fourth century) when Constantine declared Christianity to be the state religion. The problem is that Christianity always thrives best as a minority, and becomes anemic when it is declared a majority. We are healthiest when we live out kingdom values in the midst of ungodliness. The more quasi-Christian a nation becomes, the less vibrant is the health of the church!

A dangerous trend among believers today is the attempt to “return this nation to God.” It lives with the illusion that this was at one time a christian nation. But Christ-followers have no ultimate allegiance to one country. We are loyal patriots wherever we live. Ugandan Christians are loyal to the country of Uganda. Brazilian Christians are loyal to Brazil. And U.S. Christians are loyal to the United States. But whether any one of these countries thrives or falls doesn’t ultimately effect us, for our hope is in God’s kingdom.

Sincere attempts to “return America to God” are as wrong-headed as if the church in Ephesus had started a “return Rome to God” campaign. That wasn’t the model Jesus set out for them. He wasn’t interested in “traditional Roman values” or “traditional American values.” he was interested in the kingdom which had broken through in his glorious ministry. He didn’t station Peter in Rome to give a daily update on what the Roman Senate was doing; rather he sent Peter (and the other disciples) to city after city to proclaim that the kingdom had broken in.

We are called by Christ to live out the truth of the gospel in the midst of this world. Rather than scold the world and weep and wail over the godlessness around us, we should pray for the people of our world, live holy lives among them, and gently point them to the Father.

We are not of this world. We cannot conform to its thinking and living. John, who in referring to “the world” was speaking about the sinful values and behaviors rather than the people, warned:

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him, for everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”

In a culture where things are worth killing yourself for, we remember that contentment is possible with much or little since God is the true source of life. In an environment where marriages are kept as long as they’re convenient, we remember that a covenant must be kept. Amidst a cacophony of raging voices, we trumpet the singular note of forgiveness. In a world where racism is rearing its ugly mug again, we announce that Jesus loves all the little children of the world. We are the light of the world!

We must not be “of the world” if we are to follow Jesus. Our lives must be distinctive. But we also must be “in the world.” Rather than escape, hide, build high walls, and then pull up the drawbridge, we must open ourselves to men and women who are lost – lost in every sense of the word.

When Paul wrote the church in Corinth about dealing with an immoral person, he made sure they understood he wasn’t talking about immoral people in the world:

“I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave the world.”

And as a follower of the one who was accused of being a glutton and drunkard, that’s obviously not something Paul wants. He expects us to be involved in the lives of people who are greedy, who are promiscuous, who can’t be counted on, who dishonor marriage, whose language is peppered with four-letter words. What these people need isn’t “traditional American values”; what they need is God. And their initial contact will be through flesh-and-blood believers in God.
Wineskins Magazine

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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