Sanctification is one of those words used in more than one sense in the New Testament. It usually means the state of having been made holy (Rom. 6:19,22; 2 Th. 2:13; 1 Pt. 1:2), but it also is used in the sense of moral purity (see especially 1 Th. 4:2ff). There is no doubt that God calls us to live pure, godly lives in Christ. Because of this, we must watch the company we keep (cf. 1 Co. 15:33; 2 Co. 6:16ff).
How do we balance this need of keeping ourselves “unspotted from the world” (Js. 1:27) with the ability to reach out to those who are not followers of Christ? David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, in their book UnChristian: What A New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity…And Why It Matters, discuss several factors that lead two generations—they call them “Mosaics” (born between 1984 and 2002) and “Busters” (born between 1965 and 1983)—to be more radically disconnected from and antagonistic toward “Christianity” as they perceive it. One of the factors is their view that Christians’ lives are too sheltered for them to relate to it or find it desirable as a lifestyle choice. We’re often thought of as living in our own world, providing too simplistic answers for our complex world, being ignorant and outdated, speaking our own, exclusive language, and our outrage and offense at being putdown and mocked by the world. I don’t know how this hits you, but perhaps it gives us an opportunity to examine ourselves.
The authors make a great point worthy of our consideration: “Christianity begins to shift its sheltered reputation when Christ followers are engaged, informed, and on the leading edge, offering a sophisticated response to the issues people face” (132). The answer is not to replace congregational singing with rock concerts, recruit women, homosexual, or hard-edged shock-sermonizers who are foul-mouthed and irreverent to replace faithful gospel preachers, or the like. The answer is much more New Testament, more aligned with what the early church was. The answer is “engagement.”
That means we engage people in the world. We create opportunities or enter environments where “outsiders” (non-Christians) are to be found and we become salt and light, opening doors for the gospel through relationship-building and our genuine concern for people’s (often messy) lives.
It means we engage ourselves in “active faith.” We let faith have arms and legs. We move from being “believers” to being “doers” (Js. 1:22). We urge, encourage, and enable people to actively serve and live out faith in their daily lives.
It means we engage people like those Jesus and His disciples targeted. That means the woman caught in adultery, Zaccheus, the lame man, Blind Bartemaeus, the 10 lepers, the Samaritan woman, and others like them. We cannot forget what Paul said, that God has chosen the foolish, weak, base, nothing, and despised types to be His people (1 Cor. 1:27-28). The people God chose to be heirs are not the pretty, popular, influential, and wealthy (Js. 2:5). The authors of UnChristian specify groups like “loners,” “self-injurers,” and “fatherless” people (135-137). We can add to that list, but people like these do not often top the “prospect lists” we might make.
Divine Truth must prevail and guide us in matters of salvation, our teaching, our personal morality, our worship, etc. If it will guide us in reaching the world with the Word, we had better stop sequestering ourselves and our faith from a world in desperate need of the only message with eternal implications. Reflect on how Paul’s words apply to this, when he says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). We’re not just meant to prove that to each other. God wants us proving it to those outside of Christ.