Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 NIV)
Paul is writing to a congregation in Corinth. The standard practice of the time was to read aloud letters received to the entire congregation. I wonder what they thought about when they got to this section? What I think about is the attractional model of doing church. I know there are very strong arguments for this approach, especially the argument of success in terms of numerical growth.
I think our gatherings should be attractive. What we do should be done with excellence and our facilities should be inviting. The challenge comes when we start identifying what is attractive to us, and especially when we begin thinking in terms of what would be attractive to the world. When we start asking these questions do we hold a focus group and talk with unbelievers or do we reread the gospels to see what made Jesus attractive? Based on Paul’s instructions here it would seem that we are encouraged to look to Jesus and not to the world.
Paul saw something happening in Corinth that he was concerned about and his instructions on how to deal with the situation are clear and challenging. While he has just placed great emphasis on our role as ambassadors from God to unbelievers he emphasizes that this role cannot be accomplished by partnering with unbelievers. Everything here implies a direction and that direction is away from the world and toward God.
How did Jesus do this and what was the result? When Jesus fed the 5000 he satisfied a very real need and the result was a large crowd that wanted to make him king. When he told the crowds what kind of king God desired him to be the crowds went away. When Jesus came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey the crowds again saw a king who would bring them salvation and praised him. When he allowed himself to be arrested without resistance it was easy for the Jewish leaders to convince a crowd to shout, “Crucify him”. Jesus didn’t avoid the world, but his connection with the Father was so strong that he always knew he was an alien. He was in the world, but not of the world.
I think this is the challenge for the church. How can we as congregations who are the body of Christ best communicate Jesus to a world that is dying? What should we be doing? What do we need to purify ourselves from? My desire is that more and more people would see who we are, see Jesus and respond as Peter did in John 6.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. (John 6:68 NIV)
To my grandchildren:
When you must make a choice, any choice, look to Jesus. Do your best to decide which choice will help you become more like Jesus.