Separation from the World

     When one hears the words “Separation from the world” what comes to mind? To some it could be the very phrase you hold your Christian life upon. Maybe you show this by listening to only gospel music, not going to any place that serves alcohol, maybe not attending movie theaters, maybe not having women wear pants, and men not wearing blue jeans. Maybe you don’t have boys spike their hair, wear name brand clothes, or permit girls to wear makeup or color their hair. This is what this phrase means to many different people. To others it may mean not to sin, or maybe to reject the culture around you! Few verses/phrases in the Bible have caused more confusion, debate, and frustration amongst Christians, and fewer verses have caused more churches and it’s people to be torn asunder. What does this mean? Is this a general command? Or is their a more specific meaning to this verse? What exactly is God trying to communicate to us when He says “to be separate from the world?”

Romans 12:1-2 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 

2 Corinthians 6:17 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left...

     To unlock the meaning behind these verses first we must understand. What does the word “world” mean? It seems many Christians have different ideas of what “world” really means here and hence all the different standards that come forth from this. This word “world” is the word “kosmos”. Interestingly enough, Greek doesn’t have a word for “culture” so generally speaking the word “kosmos” is also used instead. In the context of this verse, it’s obviously not telling us to be separate from the very world we live and dwell upon (as in the earth) that’d be impossibly absurd! This leads many to believe it means to separate yourself from the world’s culture! (women not wearing pants, not going to movie theaters, no modern music, etc etc)

     However, people who say this forget that in the Bible we see the churches and church leaders adjust to their culture all the time! (Acts 17:23, Matthew 7:3-5, 19:24) These verses all use the culture in that locale to present the Gospel. In fact, this process is called “Contextualization”. So this verse obviously can’t mean to be totally separate from the culture in which you live. That would make the Bible contradict itself. For the Gospel has always been most effective when it is applied to the current culture in which it’s being presented.

     We see an example of Biblical separation by Daniel when he decided to follow the Mosaic law, and not defile himself with the king’s food and wine (Daniel 1:8) We later see Daniel living in the Neo-Babylonian Empire and living among the people/leaders peacefully, all the while, honoring to the Lord and following Him. Once the law was decreed that only Nebuchadnezzar could be worshipped, Daniel still lived peacefully among the people but chose to honor God and not worship the false idol.

     With this one example in mind, and we reread out texts in question in their entirety (verses before and after the stated verses) we see a common thread that many Christians seem to miss. Every time it talks about being separate from the world it’s clearly referring to sin (EX: II Cor. 6 is talking about idol worship) The Bible isn’t telling us we can’t enjoy basic things (going to movies, playing video games, wearing modern clothes etc) it’s saying to separate yourself from the sinful nature of the world! Meaning to separate yourself from openly sinful behaviors!

     It’s amazing to me how much these passages get misinterpreted and misapplied! So many Christians bind themselves with rules and regulations under the banner “Be separate from the world!” But let me present to you something about this logic. If you start separating yourself based on it’s connection to the world (as in culture) you would soon start to be unable to do anything! Because where do you draw the line?

For example: I’ll take a personal favorite topic of mine: music. How many Christians in the world think modern music is wrong? (Ex: rock, pop, country) So, they start saying “It’s connected to the world!” and start pointing fingers as how it’s “worldly”. Why? Because it’s not talking about God (even though there is nothing Biblically wrong with a love song) then it’s because of the electrical instruments, then it’s because of the singing styles, then because of the drums, all because these artists are connected to “worldly” music. However, if you’re not going to allow drums (even though they’re in the Bible), electric guitars, etc. Because their associated with worldly bands, then you could also say that because these worldly bands also use pianos, violins, and every other instruments that we can’t use those either. Oh no, but these bands also use harmony so we can’t do that either. Oh, and I forgot, they sing notes! So now we can’t sing either...well, I guess we can’t do music at all, because it could all be associated with the world. This is of course ridiculous.

     I’m being purposefully silly here, but that’s what this logic is. It’s incomplete. If you’re going to take one part of something and label it as evil, then naturally you can’t leave a job half done! Such logic would leave us hypocrites. If name brand clothes are evil, then all brand clothes are evil! If movie theaters are evil, movies should be evil. But obviously this would be ridiculous. This would result in all Christians turning into Amish. However, even that lifestyle has its own hypocrisies. My point is this: Christians need to stop labeling such things as sin, when God never defined them as sin. This also includes adding to things to God’s command. For example:

I Corinthians 11:14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him...

     Here we see Paul, through God’s leading, instructing men to have short hair. Yet, many Christians put more regulations on just what exactly that means. (Ex: hair can’t touch your ears, tapered vs not tapered, no spiked styles etc.) this is not the case! It’s simply telling men to have short hair! There are no other footnotes than that! God says “men have short hair.” Then man jumps in and says “What God really meant was to style it within these ___ guidlines”

     Let me give you an example: my third year in Bible college I was preparing for Easter Sunday and I decided to trim my hair around my ears (I looked pretty scraggly) and I wanted to trim up before Easter. So that Saturday night after work I started trimming. I got one side to look great and I switched to trim the other side. This turned out to be an error. My trimmer bit right into my hair and took way too much off. So much so that it was unfixable so I had to shave my entire head. I remember being horrified at first. Then me and my friends started joking around about it. Calling me all sorts of applicable names. Then, that Sunday I arrived to church and it was my turn to interpret the service for the deaf. I was up on the podium getting my materials together when the Dean of Men, came up to me, grabbed my arm, and then asked

“Mr. Hess, what do you think you’re doing?”


“Mr. Hess, what happened to your hair?"

*Tells him the hilarious story of how I chopped off my faux hawk*

“William, I can’t let you interpret looking like that.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re practically bald and we specifically have it cited in the handbook that you can’t shave your head”

“Why? It was an accident anyway...”

“Because we’re not going to have you all looking like a bunch of worldly hoolagins running around here wanting to be a bunch of Vin Diesal knock offs.”

“But, I’m on the schedule to interpret. Plus it’s not that big of a deal. It’s just a buzz cut. It’ll be fine”

“No. You can’t interpret looking like that. We’ll be discussing your haircut in more detail later”

“The Bible tells me only to have short hair. Now, I don’t care what your handbook says, the Bible says I’m within my bounds. On top of that I’m on the schedule to interpret today which means it’s my responsibility and I am not handing my responsibility off to someone just because Crown’s handbook doesn’t approve of a buzz cut! Also, God’s calling and authority on my life to reach the deaf, and therefore interpret for them, far exceeds any boundaries or regulations given by man. Including your handbook.”

     He wasn’t happy about the response, but he knew I had a point and he said “We’ll talk about this later” To my relief we never did. I continued on that morning interpreting and God blessed it. So much so that I had random people, from a visiting church, impressed with the job I had done. (Praise the Lord of course)

     Might I take a moment to add that it’s a massive crime to God to add anymore to the Bible than His own words. God says specifically what He means. No more. No less. Don’t add to the regulations God has set forth. To do so is a crime before a sovereign God. Most people think this simply means not adding false doctrines. But God doesn’t say that, He specifically says not to add unto these things!

Revelation 22:18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book...

     Granted, I am aware that the context of this verse is referring to the prophecy of John’s. However, I think it’s obvious that God doesn’t want His words tampered with.

      People so often forget that God created language to communicate to us. He gave us His Word as a guide. It is perfect and complete. No need to take His Word and apply multiple foot notes, read into statements, and ask “what if God really meant___” or “What would God say about___” God already states what He means! God has already said what He needed to say! Remember, God is not the author of confusion! (I Cor. 14:33) All issues that are sin today have already been addressed in the Bible! Sin has never changed. Lust and adultery are still the same. Today it’s just easier to have access to feed that sin. Thievery is still an abomination. Immodesty is still disgraceful. Pride is still shameful. Sin is still sin!

     It’s true, God’s people are to be separate, we are called out from the world, we are to be separate from the sinful nature of this world. But not so separate that we appear as foreign to them! If we become so distant from the people we live around and won’t associate ourselves with the common ground with people today, then we are defeating the purpose of being on this earth. Jesus Christ said this:

John 17:14-18 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

     As Christians we’ve all heard the slogan “In the world, not of the world” and this is so very true. A man once said “Not of the world, but sent into the world”. If we are to be so separate from the world that we can’t dress like our culture (even though Jesus and His disciples did) and we can’t listen to modern styled music (even though culturally applicable music was in the temples) and we can’t do all these different things and are to be so separate that it causes us to not even be remotely “in the world” then we have separated ourselves too far. People need to feel like they can relate to us. This is how Jesus and His disciples were able to see so many souls saved. They lived for God, showed it in their lives, reached and preached, all without compromising the Gospel (which should never happen) but also within the world they lived.

"Christians are to be separate from the sinful nature of the world"

     In conclusion, to be separate from the world in no way means that we can’t enjoy our lives on this earth and do normal day to day things. Does not mean we have to live as if we are a part of the cast on “Little House on the Prairie”, it doesn’t mean we have to live reclusive from everyone and everything. It doesn’t mean we can’t go to movie theaters, listen to music, or dress like we’re from 2015. (There was a Bible college I attended that wouldn’t even allow men to wear anything else besides white and light blue shirts to avoid looking worldly) The Bible simply means to separate ourselves from the sinful nature of this world. God couldn’t care less about what footnotes you decide to add to your life. What guidelines you decide to run your life by. He doesn’t care about how high your standards are. He cares about how separate are you from sin and how close you are to Him.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

1 comment:

  1. Very good Will. I have been guilty of this kind of behavior in the past. I think that people who take it too far look at themselves as being more righteous than others and enjoy judging others to make themselves feel better.