Relate Purely

Love the Lord your God with all your heart .... Mark 12:30a

It seems relating purely is something that we have gotten very bad at. On one end of the spectrum there are just far too many stories of clergy, deacons, youth workers, nuns etc stealing from church members, abusing children, condemning behaviours they themselves are taking part in. While it is easy to condemn they people as 'not truly' Christians those looking in from the outside do not see it that way, and I think when we are honest with ourselves it is hard for us to see it that way either. I can stay that I personally have felt a mixture of shame and anger when a prominent local bishop was arrested for possession of child pornography. Let me be clear on this I am not Catholic, but I am Christian and I acutely aware that whenever anyone anywhere in Christendom falls like this we all must deal with the damage to our witness.

This type of high profile events are only part of the problem. They are big, loud and they occupy media attention for some time, but they are also somewhat infrequent and if the rest of Christianity related purely I suspect they would be viewed as anomalies. But we do not, so they are not. On the other end of the spectrum it seems like the biggest thing preventing people from entering into a relationship with God is Christians. It has become fashionable to say things like "Jesus I like, it's Christians I can't stand" or "I'm OK with God, it's his fan club I don't like". Clearly something has gone terribly wrong if your normal everyday Christian has become a hindrance to faith.

Of course the question is what can we do about this? There seems only to be two options open. Either we one cut ourselves off from this sinful world, retreat into our own ‘safe’ subculture satisfied with knowing we will not sin, and periodically emerge to tell the rest of society they should come in and join us lest they burn in Hell. Or we can two, throw ourselves directly into the world that surrounds us embrace what we see around us so our neighbours do not think we are weird or cultish. Sure our actions may not look like our grandparents but it is the 21st century and we still believe in Jesus and that was what we were all told was really important.

Now not only are neither of these ideas good, they are not the only paths open to and they certainly do not represent properly how Jesus lived. We are called to live among our unbelieving neighbours we are not supposed to hide ourselves away in some Christian corner. But while we are around our unbelieving neighbours we cannot compromise our morals and fall into sinful behaviour. Living properly among our unbelieving neighbours can be summed up with the “Two P’s”. The two P’s are proximity and purity.

The concept of having to hold both purity and proximity in tension is seen in Jesus’ parables concerning light and salt. We are told that we are to be the salt of the world and the light of the world. Focusing just on the concept of light, Jesus tells us that we are supposed to be a light on a hill, this is purity we are a shining light in the darkness, but he also tells us that no one would light a lamp only to put it under a bowl, that is proximity.

Mike Metzger says this about the two P’s; “Being salt and light demands two things: we practice purity in the midst of a fallen world and yet we live in proximity to this fallen world. If you don’t hold up both truths in tension, you invariably become useless and separated from the world God loves. For example, if you only practice purity apart from proximity to the culture, you inevitably become pietistic, separatist and conceited. If you live in close proximity to the culture without also living in a holy manner, you become indistinguishable from the fallen culture and useless in God’s kingdom.”

Paul was able to tell the Corinthians to follow his example as he follows Jesus’ example. We need to be able to say that to our friends, family and neighbours. We need to be able to say if you want to know what I believe see how I live. We must relate to everyone around us with purity, we have to both lovingly engage the world, while we refuse to be conformed to it; we need to come along side people directing them to Christ