Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Be In The World

"Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. "

Matthew 5:14-16 - The Message

A common phrase in faith communities is to "Be in the world, but not of it." This phrase is normally used to make the point that we need to be careful to not be corrupted by the things of this world. The emphasis is almost always placed on the last half of the phrase, "not of it."

I believe that this phrase has contributed to the "christian bubble." This is where we do as much as we can to NOT interact with the world. We try and only interact with the "holy" and never with the "secular." We have our own radio stations so that we don't get drug down by the worlds' music and we have our own bookstores so that we can buy our Bibles without having to walk past the "evil magazine rack" at Barnes & Noble and we place ourselves in the "safest" most "moral" communities that we can find so that we don't have to deal with the realities of this world.

We spend so much time and energy separating ourselves from this world and "not being of it" that we completely forget the part that is, I believe, the most important part of that phrase - BE IN THE WORLD!

The Bible says that no one lights a candle and puts it under a basket, instead you place it where everyone can see it. The light always shines brightest in the darkest of places, yet we try and stay huddled around all of the other candles where it is safe.

Mahatma Gandhi said "Be the change you want to see in the world" and I think that he is exactly right. We can not be the change that we want to see in the world if we are not "in the world."

Here are three great ways to "be in the world":
* Volunteer your time. You don't always have to volunteer at "christian" organizations. We should go into the world, not always expect the world to come to us or our organizations. Look towards local organizations like the Boys & Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters, local Senior Centers, Food Banks, Soup Kitchens and things like that. Also, play to your strengths. If you are artistic, volunteer to help with children's art classes at a local studio. If you love sports, volunteer to help coach local youth sports. These are great ways to use your time to make a difference in our world.
* Be strategic with your financial resources. My wife and I learned of a need a few years ago at a local organization: they needed winter coats for the homeless and working poor that they serve. We obviously couldn't afford dozens of new coats but we did learn that a local thrift store had "99-cent Mondays" on certain tagged items. So we would go in and find all of the good coats that they had for 99 cents, and for less than $20.00 we would have a couple big bags full of coats to donate! This ended up being an inexpensive way that we could help a local organization and make an impact in people's lives.
* Get involved in your community. Every town has community-focused events and activities, this is a great place to get involved. You can "be in the world" while contributing to making our communities a better place! Be creative, there are literally hundreds of ways that you can give your life away in most cities.

Just go. Live your life. Certainly be smart about the situations you put yourself in, but don't view this phrase as a call to separate yourself from the world. Instead, view it as a call to live in, and impact, the world. Your impact will be felt and your light will shine!

Now go and BE IN THE WORLD!


If you would like to read more on this topic a great resource is Reject Apathy, a new project that has been launched by the team at Relevant Magazine. You can learn more here: REJECT APATHY


  1. I have been involved in church for years and I have never heard that saying said that way. Thank you for a fresh perspective on an old truth!


  2. Chuck Colson's book _How Now Shall We Live?_ speaks to this, as well. He basically says that Christians too often settle for operating the Christian world, and a talented Christian singer makes a "Christian album" rather than an album, or a writer writes a "Christian novel" rather than a novel, or a Christian producer produces a "Christian movie" rather than a movie, and the result is that they are marginalized by the world because they've limited their talents to the margins. (Of course, this isn't helped by the fact that there are a lot of BAD Christian novels or movies out there.) He encourages Christians to operate in secular circles, but do it in a way that, through your talents, you may deflect any attention you might otherwise receive onto the One who gave you those talents in the first place.

  3. It's interesting,

    I stayed away from the church for years, but did a lot of community outreach also. I was often misunderstood as having christian motives at the time, though I claimed I was an atheist. I still enjoy the outreach, and enjoy the subversive motive. It makes my heart beam and warms my soul. David Mc