A couple of weeks ago, Mrs. H. told me about a religious fiction book she was reading that was full of the old cliche's about Christians and Non Christians. Then with my cousin's posting about wanting to be more in church and not in the world, the wheels started spinning. Something that I remember being drilled into my head, especially in the Southern Baptist environment was, "We shoule be in the world but not of the world." Where did that saying come from? Dad taught me to doubt everything someone tells me until I see it myself, so I had to go back and look for the verse that tells us to separate ourselves like that. I was actually shocked when I found out that it's not in there! Jesus never says these words.
The closest that anyone comes to saying is the writer of the Gospel of John. John 15:19 says, "If you belonged to the world,* the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you. " Further along, in chapter 19: 13-16 Jesus says in his prayer, " But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.* I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.* They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. "(emphasis mine) Quite a different view.
In 1st century Judaism separations were everywhere. There was a class structure in place of clean and unclean. People who were deemed "unclean": gentiles, women who were menstrating or had just given birth, lepers, the sick and poor, were not able to enter into society and were kept on the outside margins. Jesus ministry was as much about breaking down those barriers as about anything else. His resurrection was about reconciling all of humanity to God, an open invitation that put the Samaritan and Roman on the same footing as the Pharisee and Scribe. That is the gospel, the Good News, that the Apostles were told to spread.
But somewhere along the way we lost that. Today we hear devout Christians talk about home schooling their children, listening to only Contemporary Christian music, reading Christian fiction, watching only Christian TV stations, voting for only Christian political candidates. This dilutes the inclusive message of our Savior. Christians now look at those that are "Unbelievers" as the "Other", when our own holy writings tell us that there is no difference between us. St. Paul boldly says in Galatians 3: "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. " and in Romans, "For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..."
Looking back on a campaign started by an Evangelical pastor, I have to ask, would Jesus wall himself off like this? Would he tell us to create our own culture, or would he instead encourage us to go out into the world and be a force for change? Will we continue to look at those most in need of love as "other", or will we instead "embrace the leper" as St. Francis did, and see that divine spark, the Christ in everybody? Will we continue to shun someone because they are different, speak differently, love differently, or worship differently, or call God by a different name than we do? Will I continue to do this? Will you? What Would Jesus Do?