Acknowledging a Real Problem that Really Isn’t a Problem

Romans 12:1-2 raises at least one question (& probably more) that needs a thoughtful & biblical answer. For example, how does the command to not be conformed to this world relate to Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians chapter 9, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some?” How is becoming all things to all people not conforming to the world? Or how does the command not to conform to the world, i.e. to be counter-cultural, relate to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:32-33 - “Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved?” Can we really be all things to all people without conforming to the things of this world? Is this even remotely possible?

Before we answer that, there’s more to consider. This isn’t just an Apostle Paul problem; it’s a Peter problem, a Jesus problem, and a John problem. Peter calls us to the live as “aliens and as strangers in the world (1 Peter 2:11)” and John calls us not to love world (1 John 2:15); but Jesus told the same two Apostles to go into all the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). Disciple making requires relationship building. And relationship bulding takes time. How can you be a “stranger” in the world and “not love the world” but build relationships with world and do ministry within the world?

The reason there are questions like these is not because Paul, the Apostles, & Christ slipped up and got confused about what it means to follow Christ in a fallen world. Nor does it mean that they contradicted themselves and each other on our place in this world and how we should live & minister in it. That’s not what the problem is!

They were simply holding two Christian ideologies or principles in balance. It’s what we call being in the world, but not of the world. Jesus said it best during His prayer for us in John 17 - "I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world" (John 17:15-16).

It is obvious in Christ’s prayer that we are to be both in the world (i.e. building relationship, working, living, doing ministry, etc…) but not of it (i.e. living as pagans contrary to the Truth/ Gospel). So the concept of being in the world but not of the world is not problematic in itself; the problematic aspect to all this is us trying to find a balance in it all!!!

More to come on this issue...