Focal Passage: 1 Peter 2:11-17
The call to live as exiles in a fallen world requires sober self-reflection for our churches. It would seem that many of our congregations have tended toward complete separatism, but Peter calls us to live as sojourners.
As Christians we know that we have no abiding city here, yet we are still called to, as James Davidson Hunter argues, maintain a faithful presence within our fallen world. Moreover, Peter urges believers to live such good lives that our pagan neighbors would end up giving glory to God. It would seem that the more holistic understanding of our place in this world calls us to a posture of both solidarity and separation with our culture.
We are called to separation in the sense that we model a different kind of life, with different hopes and motivations flowing from the gospel.
We are called to solidarity in that we are deeply involved in the needs of our neighborhoods and the world reflecting the implications of the gospel. Around 360 AD, the Roman Emperor Julian became curious of the Christians who loved not only the needy in the church, but also the needy in their community.
Emperor Julian actually argued that the pagan religions of his time should attempt to imitate and outdo the conduct of the Christians.
See, it was self-giving love of those early Christians that became a powerful witness to the power of the gospel. Simply put, their deeds authenticated their words.
I think Michael Goheen is correct when he writes that the world no longer sees the church as “an alien and undesirable invasion of people meeting their own selfish purposes but rather as a welcome presence there to bless the neighborhood.”
If your church were to cease existing, would your community miss you?