By REV. DR. BRIAN GIGEE
“IN… But Not OF the World!”
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness…”-St. Paul to the Ephesians 4:22-24
You may have looked out your window this past week and noticed what I saw. The world’s on fire. There was smoke. Some were looking for mirrors. We felt the heat. We heard the hate. We watched the fingers being pointed… and realized quickly guns were pointing back. The flags hoisted were not in agreement. We are disgusted by the confusion. We are discouraged by the division. That’s what humans see… because that’s what humans do… and this is how America seems to be right now… inside and out! St. Paul knew what so many seem to ignore. Faith matters. It really does. What we believe directs both our thoughts and actions… and as life is fluid… so our thoughts and actions can be, too! Yet, change happens!
St. Paul was once known as Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee by party and an employee of the Jerusalem Temple leaders. His job was scouring the territory and rounding up followers of Jesus the Nazarene so they could be killed… as their beliefs were contrary and divisive. He thought he was doing the right thing! Then… HE MET Jesus the Nazarene, and everything changed… so, he knew what he was talking about when he wrote to his Roman friends… “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.”
What does it mean for any of us to be IN but not OF the world? Is it our personal goal to be the center of attention or just what should we even say about the fact that any of us is here? Jesus was quoted praying to God this way… “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.” (St. John 17:14-15)
Such a loving and yet precarious ask… something each generation must acknowledge and tend to. Then and now. Especially now… as now is best!
There is an ancient Christian mantra… memento mori (“remember death”) which warns us not to allow ourselves to be contained by the world or to understand that death is just the gateway to a better life. God is present on both sides of life and death and as just one of the billions of fellow residents of this planet… I believe myself to be a spiritual being, here, now, and as important as anyone else but not belonging forever to what is a broken and corrupted world. So, it’s just plain hard work for any of us to fully understand what is happening around us and in the world and why. As much as we have a faith in God, we sometimes forget God has faith in us… helping us to see that we ARE in the world but NOT of the world… all the time! Remember… “God is good—all the time; and all the time—God is good!” And God’s faith matters, too… in us… all the time!
In the end, violence is never effective… even though it’s been in the world since Cain killed his brother Abel… and even before there were any commandments to forbid it. So, right now we are being offered another taste of what it means to live IN but not OF the world… to live deeply into … what the Bible calls… our imago dei (being created in the “image of God”) enabling us to lock arms as we use our faith to engage those things which seek to destroy, tear down and tear apart. The senseless actions in our nation’s capital is just the newest example of our need to stay close to God … and learn together the ways of God so we can live better together… IN but NOT OF the world!
The Rev. Dr. Brian K. Gigee is a long-time resident of Pearland, having pastored four churches over the last four decades in Texas and Louisiana. You can read more following his blog ‘murmurings’ at https://briangigee.wordpress.com/. Comments and / or questions can be sent to [email protected].