In but not of …


If in your family of brothers and sisters, mother and father, aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins, nephews and nieces, those to whom you are close, and those to whom you are merely connected by family … If you family custom is to gather for an annual banquet – a festive gathering – a family-get together – always has been – always will be …

I have a question for you.

Would those who were able to gather together “that year” treat others who were unable to attend any differently? Would those who did attend “be better” than those who did not that year? Would those who could not attend one year be ostracised – become a “them” out in the cold – whilst we become an “us” in the warmth of our banquet glow?  And would one who finally managed to attend after many years be any less welcome?

I pose this ponder because I read a post by Don Merritt (the Lord and Don seem to be a rich source of stirring in me recently). Here is Don’s post: “Hated by the World” – and here is the stirring: “As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.” John15:p19.  If you have the time to read Don’s piece – mine will make a lot more sense (hopefully)

Because my God Soft Hands Jesus did cartwheels over that sentence. Like “Paul … Paul … PAUL!!!!! … Are you seeing what I am seeing … look … look … LOOK … As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.” cartwheels – and I did – and my brain went  B … O … O … M … !

Let me explain why …

There is a quote I often hear. A verse that has become a “mantra”. It is a verse that I struggle with.  It is the “you are in this world, but not of it” verse.

(and in the writing of this post I went to look for that verse – and I cannot find it. Not as it is used. The closest I could find was this: “But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.” John 8:23 – WOW!! Is that “it”?)

And if anyone can find “that” verse, please do let me know – thank you.

I have long struggled because this “In but not Of” seems to now be a foundation stone of Christian living – a great big stone – one that I keep tripping over. And here is why.

Here is my comment to Don (with a little tidying):

“What a wonderful thinker! Thank you. And – for me – addresses one of the difficulties with this “world stuff”. The often quoted “of this world but not in it” quote. Which immediately puts an (unnecessary?) us and them – and is a “Christian presupposition” which influences so much else.

“As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.”

Tiny difference – but one which I read with sirens blaring and bells ringing (like how He does when He wants your attention). And which resonates with “in and OF this world”. No us and them. We are all one.

One small difference? “I have chosen you” from this world.

And we are all chosen – we are all invited. It’s just some refuse to hear the invitation, some read it and put it in the bin, and others are vaguely aware of it and find a time later in life when that invitation is “just the right moment” for them.

I have struggled for a long time with this arbitrary Christian thing of “I am in but I am not of”.
It carries an implicit “better than thou” complex. It attaches “religion and all that” to “relationship with God” and makes them one and the same. Which they are not (in my view).

Because that presupposition simply reinforces a “better than thou” complex. For me – this one has increasingly become that I am in and of this world – that I do belong here for as long as I am here.

The alternative?

If I am here – but shouldn’t be – if I am chosen and “you” are not – if I shouldn’t even be here … How much does that “I don’t fit” drag us away from the very God and Jesus we worship?

But the “other way”?

I am in this world, I am in this world, I belong here while I am here – we all are – there is no us and them. There are merely those who see this invitation in different ways – and in different weeks of our lives – and maybe not until that one moment. And that – for me – shifts a lot of “religious baggage” that weighs “us”(!!) down.

(and explains why I have always learned as much about God from those who don’t believe in God as those who do – often a lot more)

Don, I have never been able to verbalise this to myself until just now. Thank you!

The pondering continues!!  :-) “

So back to my question at the top of this post:

When we talk about our family, our God Family, our unconditional love family, our eternal family – the family into which we have all been “chosen” – that all of us have been given our own personal invitation …

Doesn’t that mean all of us?  Doesn’t that mean those who have yet to RSVP?

Because if it does – then why would “we” even want to proclaim being aliens in our own family? Not unless “we” really do see “them” as (pick your own description)

I am curious. Always curious.

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4 thoughts on “In but not of …

  1. Thank you Paul.

    “Us” and “Them”. In the world; Of the world”. Culture… All of results in a perceptual issue for all of us.

    I mentioned culture in my reply to your original comment. There’s another cultural aspect to this which is the difference between 1st century attitudes and 21st century attitudes. Many, if not most, people in the 1st century had attitudes like that of the Jews: We are God’s people; everyone else is a Gentile dog… unclean, dirty nasty…yuk. Of course this notion is still with us, and until quite recently was quite open in many places.

    Ever read the original lyrics to “Rule Britannia”? I just re-read them, and they make me bristle and wish I could find my musket 🙂 As I’m writing this, the words to “God Save the Queen” are running through my mind and I’ve started thinking about my musket again. (I don’t really have one though).

    Following Jesus is so counter-intuitive! I think Col. 2:20 ff. It’s not about the “others” but about the ways and traditions of men generally. Our human ways of thinking (world) and God’s are quite different.

    • Thank you Don. In an odd kind of way I am finding following Jesus less and less counter-intuitive. That like the pieces of a jigsaw, the whole “fits” – at so many levels. Your use of that word culture interests me.
      Does that lend itself to “us” Christians being influenced more by tradition, culture and religion – rather than “following” and journeying (and the perceptual and language differences)?
      If so – there is an avenue worth wandering down.

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