ARA Separate PeopleIn the world but not of the worldAs children of God, it is important for us to set ourselves apart. But what does it mean and how can we apply ourselves to doing that?Amid society's wave of "tolerance," will the church remain firm in its stance without conceding to or complying with worldly trends? This, then, is the will of God: to separate ourselves from the world, to be a people dwelling alone, to embrace a truth-based value system, to set our minds on the spiritual things above, and to conduct ourselves in holiness and purity. We are to become a holy nation, a royal priesthood, and a people belonging to God (1 Pet 2:9).
Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father's house.… (Genesis 12:1)
These were the first words
that God spoke to Abraham, the father of His chosen people.
In the Old Testament, God
made a covenant with His people, choosing them from among the nations to
be a people for Himself. He blessed and guided them, loving them
exclusively (Deut 7:6-7). He expected them to set themselves apart from
the other nations, forbidding them to marry or have relations with
outsiders. They belonged to God and were to serve Him wholeheartedly.
In the New Testament, the
Lord Jesus established a covenant with His disciples through His blood,
such that whoever comes to God through Jesus Christ will be saved (Heb
7:25). He intercedes for those who are His; and yet He does not pray for
the world (Jn 17:9), for His people are not of the world (Jn
The Lord desires that His people be filled with joy and live holy lives.
Though they live in this world, they are purified and considered holy
through the truth.
While Abraham was in
Haran, God commanded him to leave his country and his people, and He would
bless him. Abraham obeyed the word of God and left Haran (Acts 7:4). From
that point on, God's guidance and blessings never left him. God considered
Abraham His friend (Is 41:8), establishing the covenant of circumcision
with him and blessing his descendants abundantly. God separated them from
all peoples on the earth to be His children.
While His people were
suffering in Egypt, God commanded Moses to bring Israel-His firstborn
son-out of Egypt so that they might serve Him (Ex 4:22-23). To
"serve" and to "leave" have a direct relation with
each other; only after the Israelites left Egypt would they be able to
After His people left Egypt,
crossed the Red Sea, and journeyed to the wilderness of Sinai, God called
to Moses from the mountain, saying,
...if you will indeed
obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special
treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you
shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (Ex 19:5)
He also established the Ten
Commandments: laws by which His people were to abide, separating
themselves as God's people from the nations of the earth.
Forty years after their
deliverance from Egypt, the Israelites arrived at the plains of Moab, east
of the Jordan River. The Moabites were petrified and asked Balaam to curse
the Israelites. Instead, God conveyed this message to the king of Moab
How shall I curse whom God
has not cursed?
And how shall I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced?
For from the top of the rocks I see him,
And from the hills I behold him;
There! A people dwelling alone,
Not reckoning itself among the nations. (Num 23:8-9)
From the history of the
chosen people, it is clear that God desired His people to be a blessed and
holy nation. The messages of prophets, the departing words of the Lord,
and the epistles of the disciples all express the same desire of the Lord:
Leave! Separate yourselves from them!
Yet we see that throughout
history, the chosen ones did not separate themselves from the world. When
the Israelites asked Samuel for a king, they simply wanted to be
"like all the nations" (1 Sam 8:5). They imitated the world in
its ways, wanting to be "ruled by man" instead of by God, who
was supposed to be their king (1 Sam 12:12).
What about us?
Broken marriages, infidelity,
sexual promiscuity, repulsive attire, godless conversations, money-driven
lives, substance abuse-these have become society's
norms. So many people are doing it. What about me?
Television and other media
have replaced God's words as the guide to people's attitudes toward life
and morality. Worldly ideals silently exert a subtle, but powerful,
influence on the children of God, gradually leading them into a world
where separation no longer exists.
As children of God, it is
important for us to set ourselves apart (2 Cor 6:17-18). But our ability
to do this is often tested by colleagues, associates, politicians, and
celebrities whose fashionable but ultimately vain lives present a false
reality. Some of us have become skeptical and ask, "Why be different
from the rest?"
The Lord Jesus said that His
disciples were not of the world, just as He was not of the world. He
sanctified himself for the sake of His disciples (Jn 17:16-19). How, then,
can we claim to be the Lord's disciples if we do not persevere for Him?
Friendship with the world is enmity with God (Jas 4:4). The elect of God
simply cannot compromise their values to fit worldly trends. If a person
loves the world and covets the things of the world, the love of the Father
is not in him (1 Jn 2:15).
Society is increasingly
tolerant of sin; so much so that in upholding the absolute truth and
keeping the word of the Lord, one is often perceived as narrow-minded and
They think it strange
that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation,
and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him
who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Pet 4:4-5)
Some believers today may
wonder why the church does not unite with other Christian denominations.
The unwillingness to compromise the truth is interpreted as arrogance.
However, the more pertinent question is, how can the truth tolerate
falsehood? How can differing faiths unite without the truth being
compromised? Amid society's wave of "tolerance," will the church
remain firm in its stance without conceding to or complying with worldly
The world continues to
change. Regardless of the outcome, it is increasingly important for us to
preserve the Lord's way. Our life of faith must resist the drift away from
This, then, is the will of
God: to separate ourselves from the world, to be a people dwelling alone,
to embrace a truth-based value system, to set our minds on the spiritual
things above, and to conduct ourselves in holiness and purity. We are to
become a holy nation, a royal priesthood, and a people belonging to God (1