Isolate or Integrate?

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I talked with a roofing contractor today about whether our wind damage was worthy of an insurance claim. He pointed out that so many people—homeowners and roofers alike—abuse the system that the insurance companies have become good at finding reasons not to pay for new roofs.

Then, he became philosophical.

“If you and I were to look at the Census, we’d see that there are still more good people than bad in our country. But it’s not always going to be that way. Sometime soon there will be more bad people than good on the Census. Then, I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

All I wanted was a job estimate! Now, I didn’t delve any deeper because (mercifully) my phone battery was dying. If I’d had more time, I would have asked, “What do you intend to do when our culture gets to that awful tipping point?”

Instead, I’ll ask you that question. What will you do? As a Christian, what is your posture toward the world? I’ve observed two tendencies among believers and in my own heart: we can isolate or we can integrate.

 

ISOLATE

When I watch the morning news, I’m tempted to draw the blinds, crawl back into bed, and avoid all the chaos. Have you ever felt the same?

Many individual Christians and congregations have followed this pattern for two millennia. We see the evil around us and we withdraw into the safety of our homes or our church buildings. We believe we can avoid being polluted by the world if we isolate ourselves. But, sin doesn’t stop at the sanctuary doors. Our isolation can lead us into the sin of self-righteousness and it can inhibit Gospel fruit in the communities around us.

If isolation isn’t the answer, maybe integration is.

 

INTEGRATE

Some Christians and congregations have chosen to integrate into the world. They rightly desire to love and serve the lost and broken world. However, they soon discover that the Gospel causes many of the people they serve to recoil or ridicule. They make little compromises here and there to avoid the appearance of intolerance or judgment. They know what God’s word says but they soften the message so as not to offend. Then, somewhere not too far down the road, their own beliefs and behaviors become indistinguishable from the world.

Some of us might have taken this path and experienced just how easy it is to damage our witness. It becomes increasingly difficult to stand out for Christ when our goal is to fit into the world.

Neither isolating nor integrating will suffice. But, there’s a third way. It’s the way of Jesus, the way of the cross, and the only option for us if it is our desire to join God as His ambassadors in His work of seeking the lost and helping them to become His disciples.

 

INCARNATE

When He observed the chaos and brokenness of this fallen world God didn’t stand far away. He sent His Son. The Eternal Son put on flesh—became incarnate—and made His dwelling with us. He didn’t separate Himself from sinful people or the perversity of the culture around Him; He entered the middle of it all. When He did, He didn’t give Himself over to the sin and rebellion He so frequently encountered. Because of His dependency on His Father, He was without sin. Jesus changed history by leaving His heavenly home, putting on flesh, entering the world, and allowing God to work through Him.

He wants to do the same through us.

Are you willing to repent and leave the safety and familiarity of your holy huddle? Or, are you ready to repent and leave the ease and compromise of your too-cozy relationship with the world? If we will join Christ by rolling up our sleeves and serving the world around us—our family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and anyone else in our sphere—we’ll find the Gospel changing lives.

Contrary to the philosophy of my roofing contractor, the scales of this world are already tipped firmly in one direction. We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. There’s no one who is good. However, thanks to the Gospel of our incarnate Lord and Savior Jesus, we can all be saved. Let’s join Jesus in the mission of sharing that Good News.