Exactly what is "worldliness"? To what extent does God expect Christians to separate themselves from the rest of society? Must God's people become spiritual isolationists?
What does the Bible reveal about spiritual isolationism? Is God's Church intended to be a "closed shop" — an isolated oasis of "true believers" who embrace esoteric doctrines and bizarre secret rites? Not at all. The Church of God is to be a "light in a dark place" as Jesus Himself was (John 9:4-5). The Church is Christ's body in this age. Wherever Christians exist they are to shine as an example in the midst of society. In the midst of it — not apart from it! Jesus prayed concerning His disciples: "I do not pray that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one.... I have sent them into the world" (John 17:15, 18). Christ did not expect His followers to separate themselves physically from the rest of society. He did not expect Christians to form isolated communities apart from the rest of the human race. Nor did He advocate unique clothing styles, liberal or conservative hairstyles and grooming habits. Jesus did not command His servants to grow beards or to shave them off. He said nothing about the use of white or black shoes, color of clothing, length of dresses, mustaches, sideburns or spiked heels.
The Inward Man
In short, Christ did not give His followers a uniform to wear that would set them apart from the rest of society. Instead, He taught through the apostle Peter: "... Be clothed with humility..." (I Peter 5:5, KJV). Clothes don't really make the man. It's what comes from the heart that makes you what you are (Mark 7:15,18-19). It's what is inside that counts. But unlike God who looks on the heart, man looks on the outward appearance (I Sam. 16:7). Man wears "badges" and "uniforms" of righteousness. God measures righteousness in terms of inward character and pure motivation. Man's measure of character is often superficial, but God looks on those intrinsic, inner qualities to determine just who His true children really are. The Bible is replete with examples to illustrate the aforementioned points. David, one of the sons of Jesse, was selected as king not because of his age, stature, vocal qualities, good looks, I.Q., or any other outward quality, but for what was in his heart and mind. He was the last to be considered by Samuel, but God knew his heart and selected him to rule Israel (I Sam. 16:1-13). He was called "a man after God's own heart" (Acts 13:22). Abraham also was chosen because of his inner qualities — not his outward appearance. Speaking of the father of the faithful, God said: "For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment..." (Gen. 18:19, KJV). In selecting His New Testament disciples, Jesus commented on the character of Nathanael: "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" (John 1:47, KJV.) God is little concerned about those outward qualities of appearance and personality that seem to be so important to human beings. Therefore it is a false standard to measure righteousness or unrighteousness solely on the basis of appearance.
Don't Sit in Judgment
Christians were not called to sit in judgment of each others clothing styles, haircuts, hairstyles, cultural tastes and preferences or any other thing. Paul wrote to the Romans: "Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?... Why do you pass judgment on your brother?... Then let us no more pass judgment on one another..." (Rom. 14:4, 10, 13). We are all the servants of God, and we will have to account to Him for everything — even the idle words that we speak (Matt. 12:36). Too many professing Christians have made it a vocation to sit in judgment of their brethren! God utterly and unequivocally condemns this damnable practice. Jesus said: "Judge not, that ye be not judged..." (Matt. 7:1, KJV). What does all this have to do with "worldliness"? Simply this! You and I were not called to accuse other Christians of "worldliness" because they chose to wear white shoes, grow sideburns, wear red dresses (which some have said is the color of harlotry!), or listen to country-and-western music! We were not called to study, criticize and condemn our fellow Christians for what we arbitrarily define as worldliness! The only legitimate standard is God's Word — the Bible.
Relating to the World
Let's allow God to define our relationship with the world. In oftquoted John 3:16, we read: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son...." And in verse 17: "For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him." Should Christians oppose God's view of the world? The citizens of this earth were all created in the image of god (Gen. 1:26, 27). He loves every last one of them. Each was created for the ultimate destiny of being added to the very family of God. What makes Christians different from the rest of humanity? Nothing but the truth of God. Jesus said in His prayer to the Father: "And for their sake I consecrate myself, that
Worldliness Vs. Godliness
The Way of the World
Adultery and fornication (Gal. 5:19) Hatred and murder (Gal. 5:20-21; I John 3:15) Envy and jealousy (Gal. 5:21) Covetousness (II Tim. 3:2) Lying and false witness (Matt. 15:19; Rev. 21:8) Thefts (Matt. 15:19) Morbidity and gloom (Prov. 15:15) Bragging and boasting (II Tim. 3:2) Talebearing (Prov. 11:9; 18:8; 20:29) Pride (Prov. 16:18; I John 2:16)
The Way of God
"Flee fornication" (I Cor. 6:18); don't commit adultery (Matt. 19:18) Love (Gal. 5:22; I Cor. 13); don't murder (Matt. 19:18) "Let each esteem other better than themselves" (Phil. 2:3) "Look not every man on his own things; but every man also on the things of others" (Phil. 2:4) "Speak every man truth with his neighbor" (Eph. 4:25) "Let him that stole steal no more" (Eph. 4:28) Joy (Gal. 5:22; John 16:20-22) "Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth" (Prov. 27:2) "He that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter" (Prov.11:13) Meekness and humility (Num. 12:3; Ps. 35:13; Micah 6:8)
they also may be consecrated in truth" (John 17:19). The possession of truth is the result of God's grace — not anything anyone did of themselves. No one can truly come to God unless He first takes the initiative in calling the person (John 6:44, 65). We love God only because He first loved us (I John 4:19). Therefore we have no right to feel superior to the rest of humanity! God loves every human being in His creation. So we see that Christians are set apart by the truth which they possess as a result of God's grace. They are not set apart by peculiar clothing styles, odd rituals or rites, or by geographical separation.
What Is Wrong With the World?
God does love the world. That much is plain. But the world does not love God! The world has marched to the beat of a different drummer — Satan the devil, the god of this present age or society (II Cor. 4:4). Having deceived the whole of humanity (Rev. 12:9), he is the enemy of the true God. When the Bible speaks of the "spirit of the world," it refers to the spirit of its leader — Satan. His philosophy has permeated every strata of society. True values have been turned upside down. The devil has led his disciples away from the truth and into error. When God talks about not loving the world, He is not referring to the people, but to the way which is contrary to His way. The apostle John wrote of this in I John 2:15-16: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world." "Worldliness" is the adoption of the world's standards and its values. These standards are based on lust and greed. The world, like its god, seeks to assuage its ego. The world's way is the way of get. It is egocentric and exploitative. War in human society is the direct result of the factors mentioned by John: lust, pride and the desire to get for self (James 4:1-2). Nations practice the law of the jungle — survival of the fittest. Do it unto them before they do it unto you. Negotiations between nations are based on relative positions of strength and weakness — not on what is best for everyone.
On an individual basis, the mind of Satan encourages us to satiate, massage and feed our own egos. The apostle James provided the antidote for selfishness in describing the essence of true religion: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world" (James 1:27). How does one keep oneself unstained from the world? By practicing selfless service. By being concerned for the welfare of others ahead of the self. By exercising compassion upon those who are suffering or afflicted whatever the cause. James is not speaking of lifting up one's skirt in righteous indignation over the amount of makeup someone else is wearing, or the length of their skirt or the cut of their clothes! The spirit of the world is the spirit of selfishness and vanity. It is great, toadish, swelling ego. True religion is exactly the opposite!
II Corinthians 6:14-18 in Context
But what about scriptures like II Corinthians 6:14-18? "Do not be mismated with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, 'I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you....'" The key to understanding this passage lies in the context. Paul is illustrating a principle by loosely quoting a number of Old Testament passages (Ezek. 37:27; Lev. 26:12; Isa. 52:11; II Sam. 7:14; etc.). The principle is that Christians cannot "dabble" in false religion. Christians cannot bridge the gap between truth and idolatry. Christians cannot be "fellow travellers" with those who worship idols and serve false gods. Apparently some of the Corinthians were still trying to straddle the fence between the old pagan religions of Corinth and true worship as taught by Paul. They were entertaining false teachers who brought in erroneous doctrines. Paul insisted that they come completely out of such superstitious nonsense, not dragging vestiges of it with them into the body of Christ. (Corinth was a city notorious for its idolatry!) Satan the devil is the author of a complex system of religion which embraces a little bit of everything. It has something for everybody. He has ministers who claim to represent God, but in actual fact serve Satan (II Cor. 11:13-15). The final manifestation of this great church/state system is called "Babylon the Great" in the book of Revelation. Speaking prophetically to the Church of God, Jesus Christ warns: "Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven" (Rev. 18:4). Christians are not to be a part of this world's (Satan's) religions. They are to come out and be separate in practice and in deed.
A light to the World
The Church of God is to be a light to the world — an example — a model. Jesus spoke of the Church as "a city that is set upon a hill" which cannot be hidden from view (Matt. 5:14). Its members are to shine with
You and I were not called to accuse other Christians of "worldliness" because they choose to wear white shoes, grow sideburns, wear red dresses (which some have said is the color of harlotry!), or listen to country music!
the light of the fruits of God's Holy Spirit. They are to preach the gospel of God's soon-coming Kingdom (Matt. 28:19-20). But to accomplish all of these great works they must go out into the world. Those of us who are privileged to be called of God in this age have an awesome responsibility. We must not hide behind the skirts of "Mother Church." We must go out and meet the rest of the world on its own terms. As Paul said, we must be "all things to all men" (I Cor. 9:22). We should adopt the social customs of whatever society we live in so long as they do not conflict with the higher laws of God (see Rom. 13:7; Acts 4:19; 5:29). Christ never intended His Church to be a collection of freaks and oddballs in some kind of ecclesiastical sideshow. Our way of life should not be so foreign, so alien and odd, that it repels those who would come to Christ. Jesus did not come with a gospel of health foods. Instead, He taught that the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink (Rom. 14:17). (This does not mean Christians should not be cognizant of good, commonsense dietary habits as part of a balanced way of life, but food arid diet are not essentially spiritual matters.) Nor did Christ come with a message about makeup, birthdays and skirt lengths. He said nothing about dancing and music in Church. He did not address Himself to the question of whether men should wear white shoes or sideburns. (Paul and Peter did teach the use of modest, as opposed to flamboyant and pretentious apparel — I Timothy 2:9-10; I Peter 3:3-4.)
The Epitome of Balance
Jesus was at once liberal and conservative in His tastes. He did not insist on some form of "Victorian morality" and prudishness — which is contrary to biblical teaching. Yet He was not hedonistic and permissive in His sense of morality. He was balanced! He did not come with a gospel of abstinence and intolerance. He did not preach against drinking — only against the misuse of alcohol. What Christ commanded His Church to come out of was sin. He insisted that they abandon false religion and pagan worship. He preached against the hypocrisy of His day. He told His followers to be separated by the truth — not by their hairstyles and manner of dress. He warned His people to come out of "Babylon the Great" — the satanic system of church and state whose powers will someday be unleashed on this earth. Neither was Jesus against the honest acquisition and possession of material wealth — only the misuse of it. He was in favor of free enterprise, but against greed and exploitation.
Jesus and the World
He associated with "publicans and sinners" (Luke 5:27-29; 19:1-7; Matt. 9:l0-13) and forgave the woman taken in the very act of adultery (John 8:3-10). He did not shriek in holy horror and run screaming in the opposite direction as some self-righteous modern "Christians" might do. Yet He did tell her: "Go, and sin no more" (verse II). Jesus was big-minded! He did not become preoccupied with the petty standards of "righteousness" that have become an obsession with many professing, modern Christians. He had no "hang-ups" about the world in which He lived, and He mixed and mingled freely with it. He was popular and well-liked wherever He went. His greatest persecution came from intolerant religious leaders! Visually, Christ looked no different than other men of His age in that society. He wore no bizarre costume, had no "halo" around His head, wore His hair and beard in the contemporary Roman fashion, and dressed as any prosperous carpenter would have. In dress and appearance, Jesus was "normal"! (Read our free booklet The Real Jesus and the free reprint "Did Jesus Have Long Hair?") "... Christians are to follow the example of Christ! He instructs us: "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24, KJV). Let's learn to be tolerant of each other's tastes in clothing, music, personal grooming and hairstyling, and choice of movies, television or radio programs. Let's not make a mountain out of a grain of sand by adopting a rigid, Victorian, self-righteous standard of godliness. Let's look to the weightier matters of the law and develop true righteousness.