When do we need to know where another person or group stands in terms of their religious beliefs and theological stances, and when does it not matter so much? It seems to me that in some cases it is very important that we know – and act accordingly – where someone is in terms of their beliefs. But in other cases, it really does not matter very much at all.
A perennial problem for the Christian is learning how to be in the world but not of it. That is, the believer wants to reach people in the world for Christ, but he does not want to be unduly contaminated by worldly behaviour, worldviews and the like.
And as always, church history shows us that there are extremes to be avoided. Some believers, to remain pure and un-spotted from the world, will withdraw altogether, living in caves, or at least going into monasteries, and so on. And there CAN be a place for some of that activity for some people, to some degree.
The other extreme of course is to totally embrace the world, its values, its beliefs, and its behaviours. But worldliness is something we are repeatedly warned about in Scripture. So the issue once again is about trying to find the biblical balance.
And all this has once again come to a head with the release of the film Sound of Freedom. Much of the recent criticism about it had to do with religious and theological differences. Some folks thought we should stay away from the film altogether because not all those involved in it are fully onside theologically. I already penned two articles looking in detail at those critics and their criticisms.
In that case it was about doctrinal and theological purity. Some Christians thought we must avoid this film like the plague. Never mind the rescue of trafficked children. But I argued – once again – that there is a place for working with others for various worthwhile purposes. It is called co-belligerency.
What I want to discuss here follows on from all that, but it has a somewhat broader application. As I just mentioned, how do we stay “pure” in various ways while living in the world? The New Testament does speak about the need for separation at times. But it also speaks about being involved in the world to make a difference.
As but one example of the former, Christians of course should avoid sexual impurity. So in 1 Corinthians 5 Paul says we are to avoid those involved in sexual immorality. Yet he says that in terms of those claiming to be believers. He says that if we seek to avoid ALL sexually immoral people, then we “would need to go out of the world” (see 1 Cor. 5:9-11).
If Paul were here today he would not be telling us to never buy a coffee at some shop for fear that the barista is sexually immoral. He would not tell us never to fill our cars with petrol because the one taking our cash might be immoral, or an atheist, or a cultist, or a witch. So he would seek for a bit of common sense here. We should as well.