Thursday, May 1, 2008

Sanctified or Sterilized?

I've always loved Winnie the Pooh, and one of my favorite Pooh-isms from the original videos is this one when he would say "Think, think, think, think, think!" I've felt like that a bit lately. Maybe I've been hanging around Lisa's blog too much - ya think?!

My recent contemplations are regarding how easy it is to confuse sanctification with sterilization, being set apart without being segregated. As believers, I think it is so easy to be scared of the world and withdraw into our holy huddle where we feel safe. I know it's something I struggle with, and as a mom, my protective instincts toward my children war with the desire to reach out.

We read in Matthew 5:14-16:
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

But where does a lighted lamp do the most good? In a room where there are lots of other lights already turned on? Or in a dark room?

I have a friend, a wonderful Godly woman, who was not raised in a Christian home. Her parents divorced when she was 3. Her mom struggled with alcoholism. She lived during her high school years with her dad. During that time she became close friends with a girl in a strong Christian family. Just before her senior year in high school, her dad was going to move from the small town where they lived. Her friend, a year older, was headed to college. And the parents of this friend invited her to live with them so she could finish her high school years without moving. And during that year, this mom loved her unconditionally, prayed for her, and ultimately led her to the Lord.

I wonder. . . .would I be that mom? Or would I encourage my daughter not to be friends with this girl because of the negative influence she might have on my daughter? I don't think I like the deep-down honest answer.

Remember this parable in Luke 18:9-14?

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on
everybody else, Jesus told this parable:
"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'
"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'
"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Ouch. I've been there. More than I care to admit. Just yesterday I was driving and pulled up behind a car with an absolutely offensive bumper sticker in the back window. My first reaction was one of disgust - and yes, judgment - and then I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me, "Why don't you instead pray for that person, that he will have an encounter with God?" Believe me, that was so far out of my normal way of thinking that I knew it was coming from above!

One thing I noticed about that definition of sterilize: it has the effect of rendering something fruitless and powerless, and causes it to be free of living organisms. That seems rather contradictory to the life Christ calls us to.

Finally, here is a song that was touching enough when I heard it, but seeing the video, especially the part with the mom and the little girl, convicted me to my core:

What about you? Do you struggle with this too? How do you find the balance of being in the world but not of the world and ministering to the world?


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Aimee said...

Thanks for the welcome! They are just like Children!

Xandra said...

I am so guilty of this very thing. I get so involved in my Bible study, small group preparation, quiet time, biblical child-rearing and general business of growing in Christ, that I miss the point.

Sure...I'm being fed and I'm maturing, but what about the people around me? Do I really let my light shine? I have to admit with some shame that what people often see is a prideful attitude. Look at me...I go to church every Sunday. Look at me, I read my Bible. Look at me, I (fill in the blank).

I was moved by your example where you were inspired to pray instead of judge. When we are able to pray for someone else with pure and holy motives, it makes it impossible to judge them.

Your post gave me much to think about in terms of who I want my children to be friends with and what that says to them on a spiritual level when I show disdain for someone who is different or not churched.

Thank you so much for posting about this....


Mocha with Linda said...

Thanks Xandra.

I wanted to point out a interesting thing about the definition of sanctification that I noticed:

The more holy a man is, the more humble, self-renouncing, self-abhorring, and the more sensitive to every sin he becomes, and the more closely he clings to Christ. The moral imperfections which cling to him he feels to be sins, which he laments and strives to overcome....They are always subject to the constant chastisement of their Father's loving hand, which can only be designed to correct their imperfections and to confirm their graces. And it has been notoriously the fact that the best Christians have been those who have been the least prone to claim the attainment of perfection for themselves.

In other words, the more sanctified/closer to Christ we are, the more we are aware of how sinful we really are! That definitely flies in the face of the holy, pious, sanctimonious, Pharasaical Christian, doesn't it! And I suspect that would make me a lot more likely to extend grace to the next person.

Sandy@ Jesus and Dark Chocolate said...

Great insight Linda. I have pondered the concept of the "holy huddle" for awhile now. When I was a SAHM is was easy to be a christian, I taught ladies classes and bible studies, I was very involved at our church and I was a speaker for christian conferences. I was living in the holy huddle.......until I returned to work. It was an adjustment spiritually. I was suddenly immersed back in the world. And let me tell you it is so much more of a challenge to live that christian life while immersed in the world.
The constant struggle to be in the world but not of the world!!!

Thanks for offering your insight. This is a great post. :)

Natalie said...

This is a tough one. I can hear my parents advice growing up..."Be careful with who you choose as friends". There is so much desire to protect.

Mocha with Linda said...

Absolutely. And there definitely needs to be care and limits. For example with kids, having the child come to your home vs. sending your child there.

I remember our youth pastor's illustration of one person standing 3 steps above another - it's easier to pull someone down than pull someone up.

But even as adults, I think it's far too tempting to insulate ourselves from folks who behave in ways we don't approve of, which is counter to what Jesus did.

It is indeed a struggle.

A Stone Gatherer said...

Linda, such a powerful post! Yes I fear that I most of the time live in my huddle, but I so desire to be used of God! I need to remember to pray for those who I feel have offended me in some way! Thanks for the convicting statements! To God be the Glory!

DidiLyn said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post.
Thank you again if I didn't say it enough.
I was a rescued girl, a step away from being homeless, no family, and pregnant when a pastor, his wife and children took me in. They were God with skin on to me, and I will be grateful to them for an eternity.
Excellent post!

Lisa writes... said...

There but for the grace of God...

Powerful post, my friend. Those times I am prone to judge are the times I forget, or minimize, my own sinful depravity. How can I presume to judge another when my own sin has been (IS) so great? In Jesus' parable of the two dudes owing money, I am the one forgiven the impossibly large debt who is often guilty of refusing grace to another...

You are so right about the fine line we walk between being in the world but not of the world. We can certainly walk either extreme--how closely we must walk with the Lord, following Him every step of the way, administering grace in its various forms, bringing glory to God as we boldly share His good news...

Good thoughts. Your thinking has provoked much challenge and conviction...

grey like snuffie said...

I think we have to be careful of putting God in a box and have this nice, clean little Christian world that we exist in. I've always thought if I was grounded in Truth and started each day with Him that He will keep me from being deceived and I don't have to live in fear of "the world". Getting filled up with Him and letting it spill out will be a light and I can trust that He will raise red flags when we should step back. Great post.
"Thank You for bringing me out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, You have set my feet upon a rock making my foot steps firm." Ps. 40:2 A Rock! I can trust in that Rock! Sometimes we just have to train ourselves to look beyond what we see, hear or even smell. Asking for God's heart--that's my prayer!

sara said...

Wow, great post. I have heard that song many times before, but seeing the video touched me in a whole new way.

I deal with this with my son. He is a wonderful Christian boy, but tends to live on the edge. The beginning of this year, he met a new friend at school. We didn't know much about this boy, but as we would bump into his parents they would always say "you have a wonderful son, he is such a good influence on our son". That comment (said several times) caused my mother instincts to jump into action!! I did think about not allowing the relationship. However, I want my kids to have the chance to influence others and they are old enough that they need to step out on their own, so I prayed that God would protect him and if the relationship got to be a problem for my son that God would separate them. A few months later, this boy's parents sent him to military school. I am not sure why, but I thought this was God's way of protecting my son. Maybe it was, but a few weeks later, I found a letter from him in my sons room. In it, he thanked my son for leading him to Christ!! What a great example my son was to me!

Kelly @ Love Well said...

Linda, this is a fabulous truth, filled with much truth.

I grew up in a holy huddle -- with the best of intentions, of course -- but I have to say, in the long run, it almost killed my faith. I was protected; my friends didn't drink or smoke or swear or sleep around. (At least, not to the extent that their parents knew it.)

But I was surrounded by hypocrisy and pride and jugmentalism and greed and apathy.

Guess which group of sins Jesus had a bigger problem with?

I fear my children associating with Pharisees far more than I fear them being friends with a nonbeliever.