It's taken me a long time, but I think I'm starting to get it. I live in one world.
One world; an ugly one filled with war, disease, terrorism, rape, exploitation, hunger I could fill the page but that is the world. I have read my Bible from cover to cover, and I have not found any mention of another one. In fact, the world I find in the Bible seems to be basically the same as the one I live in.
The glorious news of the Gospel, of course, is that God came into this world in human flesh. He came in the person of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus did not come to create a little world within a world; He came straight from His Father in heaven to bring love, mercy, healing, and forgiveness into this world.
To do that, He lived in this world you know, the ugly one, the only one we have, the one full of prostitutes, criminals, soldiers, lepers, and crazy maniacs. He lived in a world of people with wild eyes and smelly bandages, people who, if they moved in next door, would definitely bring down the property values.
The world Jesus came into is the same world He sends us
into as His followers. He prayed, "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world" (John 17:15-18).
But instead of going into the world as we have been sent, we have created our own little world within a world. It's a world where "Christian" things are true, where everyone lives happily ever after, and, most importantly, where we can be safe from the "other" world that big, scary one out there. Furthermore, the safety and security we count on so much in our own little world have less to do with Jesus Christ than with locks, fences, money, and the "right" neighborhood.
It's important to note that the born-again culture has been born and bred in this sheltered world-within-a-world, and that's why it finds itself so limited and so out of touch with the people Christ came to save. We have done just what He told us not to do. We have put our light under the bushel of a safe Christian subculture.
But the most distressing problem with this little world we have created is that, through it, we plan to escape the ugliness of the other world. We are glad to be insulated and prefer to watch Christian news, listen to Christian music, and have only Christian friends. We get more excited about the number of Christians who are in our office than we do about the number of non-Christians who are there for us to love. The truth is, we don't love non-Christians; we don't even like them. They swear, they have different values, and they wear smelly bandages.
We like our little world. We feel safe here. But our little world is a fantasy. If you look hard enough, you'll find as many crimes here as you do in the real world; they're just more carefully concealed. The safety of this little fantasy world is a fantasy, too. Why? Because we really live in only one world, and it's an ugly one.
Sooner or later that world is going to come crashing in on our little fantasy world-within-the-world. Sooner or later the rapist is going to break into our house, the riot is going to spill over onto our street, or the bomb is going to go off under our car. It's inevitable. There's no way to escape the danger of life in this hostile world because, after all, the world is our address.
We have to get beyond being shocked and horrified by what we see in the world and get on with walking into it with the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.
When we do, we will finally realize that safety has nothing to do with locks, that security has nothing to do with fences, that joy has nothing to do with the absence of pain, and that peace has nothing to do with comfort. We will no longer confuse the securities of our subculture with the presence of Christ.
We will know the real Christ sustaining us in the real world, where He once sustained himself by doing the will of His Father. We will also hurt with the world, bleed for it, and cry over it just as Jesus did. We will be in danger and touch the unclean bandages.
The question is simple and straightforward: Are you in the world or are you escaping it? The issue is black and white. You are either walking into the world and into reality or you are walking away from it and into fantasy because there's only one world and it's an ugly one.
Chapter 36 || Table of Contents