But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ…
As members of the church of Jesus Christ, we have been sent by our Lord to form a colonial outpost from which we spread the influence of heaven. The church has often opted for one of two extremes. It has withdrawn from the world in order to avoid being stained by it. Or it has entered the world in order to dominate it. It has either sought to withdraw or dominate. Both inclinations have their basis in fear. When we withdraw, we fear contamination. When we dominate, we fear annihilation.
The Bible offers us another alternative, one that falls off on neither side. We gather together to adopt and reinforce the Christ pattern of self-sacrifice. Then we enter the world and influence it through this pattern — through the power of love rather than the love of power. This third alternative will always have some tension to it. We will often wonder if we’re falling off on the side of withdrawal or domination, and we will feel pulled in both directions. Isolation and power each have their appeal. We will have to think and pray and use all the wisdom that God gives us in order to take this path, but it is the path we are called to.
When we withdraw, we lose whatever influence we might have. When we dominate, opting for the love of power rather than the power of love, we model the pattern of the culture instead of the pattern of Christ, and, again, we lose our influence.
Levi the tax collector was an outcast. Jews considered him a traitor for collecting taxes for the Romans. But Jesus went to Levi’s house, and had dinner with many other tax collectors and sinners there. The scribes and Pharisees were appalled. Jesus was spreading the influence of heaven at a party of sinners without being influenced by them (Mark 2:13-17). We should consider attending such parties. If they won’t come to our parties, we need to go to theirs. When Jesus entered the world of sinners, he was not contaminated by their sin. Rather, his holiness cleansed their sin (Mark 5:25-34). Jesus resides with us by his Spirit. He has made us holy (Ephesians 1:4). We too can venture forth into the world as a sanctifying influence.
Jesus said, You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men (Matthew 5:13). Salt was used as a preservative. Jesus was telling his followers that they are supposed to influence life on earth. To say you are the salt of the earth is another way of saying our citizenship is in heaven. We are the salt of the earth and a colony of heaven, sent by God to influence the earth through the heavenly pattern of self-giving love.
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Lord, teach me to choose the other alternative; not to withdraw from the world or to seek to dominate the world, but rather to influence the world through the power of love.
Written by Mark S. Mitchell
Since our citizenship is in heaven, do we then renounce our responsibility to this ‘colonial outpost’? What are three appropriate alternatives to this fear-based withdrawal from the needed Christ-like influence?