Does this mean we don’t become part of our
surroundings, that we hold ourselves off, separate and
secure, as the popular Benedict option would have us
accept? (Visit fmchr.ch/boption and fmchr.ch/benedict for
a better understanding of the Benedict option.) Does “not
loving the things of this world” mean we create a list of
things we eschew for the glory of God? Are we to appear
different in behavior, dress or speech, or is there something
deeper going on in Jesus’ description of His people as not
of this world?
There is, and it all centers on this concept of being
strangers who work for shalom.
When we examine Jesus’ actions, it’s clear He didn’t set
Himself apart and away from His humanity. He joined
very closely into the lives of humans, weeping at their grief,
healing their pain, and celebrating with their joys. He went
to notorious peoples’ homes (Luke 19), spoke in depth
with women who could harm His reputation (John 4), and
hired a revolutionary as His disciple. Jesus’ last concern
was how He would look to others. He doesn’t seem to care
if His associations make Him look dubious. His longest
“checklist” of correct behaviors seems to include “love God
and neighbor.” Yet He says He is not of this world. What
could that mean then?
In saying He and His followers were not of this
world, Jesus is making a claim of identity, not location
or association. This is an important distinction. He is
refocusing us on the notion of being strangers who find
our identity in belonging to the one true God, not in our
location or associations.
pg. 12 — lightandlifemagazine.com
We gain our purpose and sense of security from another
place entirely. We know who we are and what our priorities
are — not from the messages this world bombards us with,
but from our new citizenship in God’s kingdom. We are
those people of faith who look toward another place called
home (Hebrews 11), even while we live well in this one. In
our souls, we long and fight for the Garden, while entropy
fights to keep us away.
The World Will Hate You
This works out in several ways. Jesus promised that, for
one, the world would hate this restoration-centric living.
Some followers have taken this as a badge of honor, making
others’ dislike into proof that they are doing things “right”
as believers. They proclaim their more godly behavior in
social media, on church signs, and in person — and the
world does hate that.
Yet this “proving ourselves holy” mentality doesn’t line
up with what Jesus says sets us apart. Being not of this
world isn’t a particular adherence to doctrine or behavior
— it’s a life marked by a new identity and allegiance.
Believers with an identity in the kingdom don’t fear
(or desire) others’ judgments, because their worth comes
from their relationship with God. This kind of internal
confidence makes others uncomfortable, since most people
are still searching for worth and identity, and often finding
disappointment. A confident and correct assessment of
oneself, in the midst of a culture where one false move
could get you “canceled,” smells of belonging to someplace
In our refusal to allow earthly priorities to pull us back
toward the pursuit of those three P’s in 1 John — pride,
possessions and pleasures — we could bring on the world’s
confusion and scorn. Allegiance to priorities so different
than those many use to bring them security sticks out like
a little American girl in rural China.
People naturally dislike what makes them uncomfortable,
and discovering one whose sense of identity is deeply secure
in a deeply insecure world is very discomforting. That we
will not join in the pursuit of anything before love of God
and neighbor is odd enough to make others give you side-eye.
This inner peace in a disquiet world, though, is harder
to hold onto as a distinctive than rules and checklists that
tell us we’re “doing OK” at being “not of this world.”
What all this means is that Jesus’ statements about
not being of the world have little to do with the outward
behavior differences we often associate with the term.
“We know who we
are and what our
priorities are — not
from the messages
this world bombards
us with, but from
our new citizenship
in God’s kingdom.”