Thursday, May 10, 2012

In the World But Not of It

How do you live in an environment and not be part of it?  How does one exist in a place without adopting the surrounding values and lifestyles?  That question has been considered by Christians since the first century as they tried to live as they considered Christians should live within the confines of the Roman Empire.

When one wears the name "Christian" as part of one's identity, does it mean that one has to be different than others around them?  Does it mean that such a person must refrain from doing what others do or going where others go or living as other live who may not be Christians?  That is a personal question and one that each person must answer for him/her self.  One who is truly a Christian and is trying to live in a manner that they feel is acceptable to Christ will attempt to monitor one's actions so as to be consistent with what they perceive is a Christian lifestyle.

There are things that automatically set off an alarm in one's mind that are considered to be "non-Christian" behaviors.  Anything that harms others...violence, slander, malicious rumors....are things that Christians are warned about in the Bible.  Obeying the Commandments...both the Ten Commandments in the Hebrew Scriptures and the Commandments given by Jesus in the New Testament are things that Christians should always strive to have as part of their lives.  Some things seem pretty clear, based upon Scripture.  Others are not as easy to define.

Some things that are prohibitions of specific churches or denominations may not be bad in themselves but were defined as such during specific moments in history.  During the Temperance Movement in the USA in the late 1800s to early 1900s, drinking alcohol was labeled as a "sin" by many religious groups.  This belief is not biblical, even though some did proof-texting to make persons believe it as so, but was a reflection of the times in this country when the use of alcohol was out of control by some so religious leaders decided a ban on its usage was necessary for the good of all.  This led to the constitutional amendment authorizing Prohibition in the USA.  That was hailed by many religious groups as the answer to the problem but it turned out that those who wanted alcohol could still get it but had to break the law in order to do so, bringing major crime issues with it.  The end of Prohibition ended the grip of organized crime over the issue and gave people the choice of making up their own minds in regard to whether or not they would drink.

I live in a town with both a liquor store and a tavern and our town seems to be a pretty safe place to live.  Rarely if ever is it reported that a problem has arisen in our town because of the presence of either of these institutions.  People choose whether or not to go to either of them and they don't bother others with their choices.

Jesus gave a clear commandment that seems to trump all others....Love God will all of your being and love your neighbor as yourself.  If we all could live by that commandment, then all other issues would be resolved.  Christians and all who bear any other name would fulfill all that is necessary simply by trying to love God and love the neighbors God has given them.

The writer of I John 5:4b says it this way, "And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith."  Faith gives persons the internal courage to decide what is right or wrong and to live as they feel God would have them live.  Faith informs our lives and assists us in making good choices.  Faith enables us to find strength for our journey both in our devotional life and in being part of a community of faith where we encourage and help one another.  Faith is the victory that overcomes the world because we believe that we are not on this journey alone but we are fellow travelers with others.

Come along on the journey and live with others who are on the same road that you travel.  You will find strength for your journey and courage to live each day in an authentic way.

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