In it, not of it

I heard this several years back and I come back to it quite often.

The Ins And Outs Of It (from Real Christians Don’t Dance by John Fisher

“In it, not of it,” the statement was made

As Christian One faced the world, much afraid.

“In it, not of it,” the call was made clear,

But Christian One got something stuck in his ear.

“Not in it, or of it” was the thing that he heard.

And knowing the world was painfully absurd,

He welcomed the safety of pious retreat,

And went to the potluck for something to eat.

Now Christian Two, he knew what to do,

He’d show those fundies a thing or two!

How will the world ever give Christ a try

If we don’t get in there and identify?

So “In it, and of it,” he said in his car,

As he pulled in and stopped at a popular bar.

“I’ll tell them the truth as soon as I’m able

To get myself out from under this table.”

Now along comes Christian Three jogging for Jesus,

In witnessing sweats made of four matching pieces.

His earphones are playing a hot Christian tune

About how the Lord is coming back soon.

“Not in it, but of it,” he turns down the hill

And stops in for a bite at the Agape Grill.

Like the gold on the chain of his “God Loves You” bracelet,

He can have the world without having to face it.

While way up in heaven they lament these conditions

That come from changing a few propositions.

“Not in it, or of it,” Christian One thought.

But who is the world will know that he’s not?

“In it, and of it,” thought Christian Two.

But who in the world will know that he knew?

“Not in it, but of it,” thought Christian Three.

But who in the world watches Christian TV?

And Jesus turns to Gabriel, shaking His head.

” ‘In it, not of it,’ wasn’t that what I said?”

The implication from the last two lines is that most of us miss the point.  Most say that this comes from John 17:14-16, which says,

14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”

But, what does it mean that we are not of the world, but we are not taken out of the world?  I don’t pretend to have the answers, but here are some thoughts.

First, the only times Jesus got angry in the Bible were times when He encountered hypocrisy from the Pharisees (see Matt 15:1-9; 22:18; Mark 12:13,14; John 8:4-9; 9:24).  What does that have to do with this verse, you say?  Just this: don’t claim to be something you’re not and don’t bother if you are just doing lip service.  Jesus knows your heart.  You might fool others, but you can’t fool Him.  This is particularly relevant to the culture here in Utah who worship God in vain, and teach “as doctrine the commandments of men” (Matt 15:9).  That, however, is a topic for another day.

Second, we are not to be friends of the world (James 4:4).  What does it mean to be a friend of the world?  My interpretation is that to be a friend of the world means that we approve of and participate in the things that those in the world participate in.  Galatians 5:19-22 says,

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery,[c] fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders,[d] drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (See also Rom 1:18-32 for a similar list.)

[Side note: I think it is just as important to notice the things that are not included here as it is to notice the things that are.  More on that another time.]

So, then, a Christian should not be participating in this kind of behavior.  We live in the world, but we are called to walk in the Spirit.  Galatians 5:22-25 says,

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

Third, we need to think about the balance between COFAT (come out from among them, 2 Cor 6:17) and ATTAM (all things to all men, 1 Cor 9:22).  That’s what this is all about.  We are to be different, but present.  Some argue that you have to participate in the world’s activities in order to be relevant, but why should anybody listen to us telling them that Jesus can change their lives if we are no different?  However, we cannot think that removing ourselves completely from the world will accomplish anything.  Our primary job as Christians is to preach the Good News (see Mark 16:15).  If we have no contact with those who believe differently than us, then we will never be able to share Jesus with them.

We need to keep ourselves free from sin while at the same time shining His light in the lives of those who don’t know Him.  It’s a tall order, but He gives us everything that we need to fill it (see Phil 4:13).

As I’ve said, I don’t have all the answers, so feel free to disagree.

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