Be in the world, but not of it (1 John 2). [Jesus] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. (Philippians 2:6) But we all recognize that Jesus was still a man apart from the world. He did not sin. He kept himself holy. He practiced spending time with God, loving others, and spreading the word of his father. I think this example is how we practice the first verse.
It can be hard in our modern age to not be of the world. Our society today is all about indulgence, entertainment, and excess. In America we have so much wealth, even the poorer among us, compared to foreign nations. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:25) In America, we’re all the rich man.
I think what Jesus meant by Mark 10:25 is that it is so easy for the rich to get distracted by the material world and fall in love with it, instead of keeping our eyes fixed on things of Heaven. It says in the Bible “blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5:3). When we have little it pushes us to rely on God and our value is on spiritual things.
So as American Christians knowing that this world is a spiritual battleground for our souls, knowing that our country is full of distractions, and knowing that we are rich and we can easily forget our need for God, we need to be extra diligent to fight the Devil’s temptations. We need to carefully discern how we are living our lives and not go through the motions. Anything not intentional is the devil’s opportunity to push us away from God.
But while keeping all this in mind we need to make sure that we don’t stray to the other spectrum in perfectionism or self-righteousness. Everyone is on their own journey of discovering love and truth. Instead of judging others we should set an example by how we live and extending grace to them, just as the father has done for us. We should also be careful not to think we know all truth. The moment that we think we have it figured out is the moment that the devil tricks us and makes us stumble in our walk.
I hope these verses and word have encouraged and reminded you as they have me of how to live every day as a Christian in our modern times.
(published in the newspaper The Hespirian Beacon on 12/20/19)