thyself the Word! Socrates almost got it right…almost. I am generally a pretty reflective and thoughtful person when it comes to analyzing myself. Unfortunately, my reflections fall short of the wisdom requisite for life. We would all do well to put our noses in the Book a little more.
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore, come out from them and be separate,” says the Lord…. (2 Cor. 6:14-17a)
I know this passage. I have read it multiple times before. I have appealed to it with friends (often in the dating/engagement context). But I forget. It’s pretty clear, is it not? Paul poses a series of rhetorical questions regarding the relationship between righteousness/wickedness, light/dark, Christ/Belial (“worthlessness,” Satan), believer/unbeliever, the temple/idols. In each case, the intended answer is that the two are completely incongruous–they simply do not fit together, like trying to shove the square peg through the circular hole. The applications of this truth are innumerable.
The context in which I want to consider this truth is in the public defense of the faith. I am prone to a little banter from time to time. For a Science/Faith class I took in seminary, we were required to go onto the web and engage in some debate with people from the other side on various topics where faith/science, belief/unbelief intersect. This led me to a renewed interest in defending the Christian worldview in a public context.
What I encountered–regardless of my argumentative strength, logical coherence, or fairness to dissenters–was not an atmosphere of open-minded discussion and deliberative weighting of a respective arguments, but rather a propensity toward belittlement, an unwillingness to engage strong arguments or concede points of deliberation, and a general atmosphere of hostility unsuitable for good discussion. I believe Jesus put it like this in John 3:19-20: The Light has come, but mankind on the whole preferred darkness. In general, we hated the Light, so we refused to expose ourselves to it. As I’ve done a little thinking and reflecting today, I believe I have come to understand something that perhaps I had not grasped before: There is little use in defending myself as a disciple of Jesus Christ to a dark world. John 1:5 reads like this, “The Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not comprehended it.” What is true will not necessarily be received as such. This being the situation, John 15:12-21 is, quite frankly, awesome. Verses 18-19 are some of the most reassuring words we could hear in this day when our faith is so lightly esteemed and so quickly mocked: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”
I don’t mean to hate on our world. Clearly, Jesus commands us to do just the opposite. I think it is equally clear from Scripture that to follow Christ means being forever mistreated and misunderstood. Souls are not won over by the strength of our arguments for belief. Rather, people are saved when God takes what it is and makes it alive, when He speaks of things that are not as though they were. Sometimes I can be sidetracked with a desire to see my faith exonerated by the world. Scripture is clear that this will not happen until the day God Himself mandates that every knee should bow to Him and every tongue confess the Son as Lord. Jesus Himself “…did not see equality with God as something to be grasped…” even though He was God in His very nature; similarly, we should not bother seeking the world’s stamp of legitimacy. It will not happen by virtue of the nature of the beast. Instead, we are called to go to the world and call the prodigals home.