Five Ways to Be in the World but Not of It

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.

John 17:6-19

Change, and Be a Change Agent!

Since Jesus walked the earth, Christians have wondered about this Scripture. As a citizen of the kingdom of God, how do I now live in the world where God has placed me? How do I function now that I am no longer of the world even though I continue to live in the world?

Health studies today suggest that we eat too much sugar, salt, and fat (SSF). These three ingredients make our taste buds go “wow!” but can result in obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Still, we have to eat. So, it is as if we are in a world of SSF but not supposed to be of it, or given over to it, lest our health suffer. We might equate this to the Christian who lives in a world that does not entirely support the values and overall ethos of the kingdom of God.

There are five ways we might approach this challenge of eating healthy in an SSF world.

1. Separation

One approach is to simply separate yourself from any contact with the SSF world. Cleaning out your cupboards. Throw away those hidden Reese’s Pieces. But also remove yourself from any proximity to a burger joint, corn dog house, or other place where temptation may arise. You can’t even associate with people who drink Mountain Dew! Various monasteries, cloister orders, and desert communities have totally withdrawn from culture to stay pure.

2. Assimilation

Another approach is to say simply that all food is good food regardless of its ingredients. Anything that comes out of a food processing chemical laboratory is good for you regardless of what doctors and nutritionists say. So, embrace all the SSF you feel like having! Some Christians identify cultural change as a God-directed process that evolves into greater and greater goods. The kingdom of God is the culture around us.

3. Faith Bubbles

Still others say that we will create an SSF-free environment in our homes and spheres of living, recognizing that the rest of the world may eat SSF, and we can coexist with them, keeping our own diets pure and letting the rest of the world continue on in their excessive consumption. What is important is that we are safe in our little SSF-free bubbles. Think Amish, for example, who live in their own protected communities but do business with the “outside” world.

4. Culture Wars

A fourth approach is to go to war against a culture that embraces SSF. We launch jihads against the great Satans of the SSF food industry, blowing up cupcake factories and assassinating the Willy Wonkas poisoning our world. Christians and other religious groups have, at times, waged crusades against those whom they see as a threat to their faith.

5. Compassion

A fifth approach is to seek to transform the SSF world, compassionately admitting that it really is hard to eat just one potato chip, and egg, cheese, and sausage biscuits from a fast food joint really do taste better than oatmeal. But a world given over to SSF is promoting death. In this scenario, we are fellows together with our neighbors who must eat, but we are witnesses to new-found health and vitality in resisting SSF foods, and we want to share this good news with others out of love and concern for their well-being. This last approach represents Christians who, out of compassion, reach out to a broken world with the transforming love of Jesus.


I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

John 17:6-19

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Which of these five approaches to living your faith in the world makes the most sense to you? Or have you even changed your “diet" yet? Are there times when you combine the above approaches—for example, protect your children from harmful influences (#3) while also serving in a homeless shelter (#5)? What combinations?

PRAYER: Lord of the Supper who gave us an everlasting food—help us feed upon you. Then send us out as feeders in a world that hungers for truth. Amen.

P. S. from Marcus Goodyear, acting Editor-in-Chief: Dave Peterson is on vacation for two weeks, and I have asked George Cladis to fill in for him. George is a wonderful pastor who has worked with The High Calling for over a decade, contributing regularly to our sermon notes series and even serving on our board of advisors several years ago. We know you'll enjoy his insights into Scripture this week.