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Vantage point

Worldliness

(A look at worldliness, using quotes drawn from my files.)

The crisis of the church ... is not the crisis of the church in the world, but of the world in the church." So said H. Richard Niebuhr in his 1935 book, The Church Against the World. Though this statement was made 65 years ago, it rings true today. Since the beginning of the Church, one of the most difficult challenges for Christians has been to live in the world without being of the world.

Skeptics and infidels have, over the years, taken Christians to task for their inability to lead a life that looks different from those who do not profess Christ. Though we would recognize the bias of unbelievers in such statements, we must also recognize there is much truth in what they say. Friedrich Nietzsche’s statement, while prejudiced against Christianity, is nevertheless fair: "I shall not believe in the Redeemer of these Christians until they show me they are redeemed." We need to take that challenge.

In What’s Wrong With the World, G.K. Chesterton addressed this from the Christian perspective: "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried." Many believers have seemingly lacked the power to interact with the world and still display a stamp of holiness.

And how can we reach the world if our lives don’t reflect Jesus? Billy Graham pointed out the quandary this causes for soul-winning: "It could be that one of the greatest hindrances to evangelism today is the poverty of our own experience." This poverty often causes one to become either a worldly Christian or a withdrawn one, unable to relate to the unsaved or the society.

A reclusive Christian life is better than a hypocritical one. But it is not a good choice. Dan Rather’s statement on national television in 1995 was not offered judgmentally, but it should make us cringe. He said, "Most people of faith are content to practice their religion in private." The best argument is a godly life lived in an ungodly world. "True godliness doesn’t turn men out of the world," said William Penn, "but enables them to live better in it and excites their endeavors to mend it."

What price are we willing to pay? "Christianity must mean everything to us, before it can mean anything to others" (Donald Soper). "If you are thinking of becoming a Christian," wrote C.S. Lewis, "I warn you. You are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you."

Our world needs Christians to pour everything they have into serving Christ — in the world.

— Ken Horn

 

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