Christians would tell me, “Don’t go in that store, it’s evil!” like any evil of the place would jump out and grab me or something. Admittedly, the store in question was making good money promoting witchcraft and druidism and other things that are completely contrary to the gospel. But their wide-eyed “Don’t go in there!” unsettled me. I’ve been trying to understand.
First, I needed to come to grips with a truth that I have sometimes overlooked: sinners sin. The proprietor of the shop (I’ll call him
There is room for the question, “What is the appropriate response of Christians toward sinners?” but I digress. I want to examine the concept of whether the “evil” of
The Old Testament teaches me that there are a bunch of ways to become unclean, and one of them is to touch anything or anyone that is unclean. For example, did you know that being dead makes you unclean, and anybody that has to touch your dead body will be unclean for a week. Leprosy is another example: You catch this, and you’re unclean for life. (Unless you get healed, but of course, nobody hardly ever got healed of leprosy.)
Worse, if you’re unclean, you can’t minister before God. If you ever do, you “shall be cut off from my presence” declares the Lord. Uncleanness is a big deal: God is holy, so we need to be holy if we want to hang around Him. It’s not like we’re going to make him unholy (ha!), but more that we’d get blown up if we showed up in His presence when we’re unclean. It’s a big deal, and the command is not just for our good, it’s for our survival!
So my Christian friends were trying to protect me when they warned me not to visit
So what did
So there is a huge difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, and the New is better. In the Old, when a godly person touched an unclean thing, the unclean trumped the godliness and godliness did not overcome evil. But in the New Covenant, the presence of God in me trumps evil.
So what does that mean for my life?
First, it means that I don’t need to be afraid to visit
More, I see this as a New Testament extension of an Old Testament (or Old Covenant) promise: “Every place on which the sole of your foot treads shall be yours.” So now, I carry the presence of God with me, and everyplace I go, godliness trumps darkness, light shines in darkness and necessarily overpowers it. When I visit
Now for the sake of clarification, this does not mean that I should be spending my time hanging out at porn shops and liquor stores and dens of iniquity. Specifically, if I have had trouble with porn, I’m not going to be submitting myself to the strongholds there; if I’m a recovering alcoholic, I’ll avoid the bars, not because I’m afraid of being touched by the uncleanness there (though the uncleanliness of their kitchen may be an issue), but because I’m not going to submit myself to temptation.
So no, don’t go looking for sin, don’t get cocky about darkness. But neither be afraid of darkness; someone else’s sin is not going to be a danger to me unless I’m not walking in the Presence of God. Let’s live holy and invade the darkness! How in Heaven’s name will they learn about the light if we don’t bring it to them?
The book of Philemon (the last page before Hebrews) is a short letter with a big lesson for God’s revolutionary leaders today.
A little bit of background:
Onesimus had belonged to
Some time later Onesimus was arrested in Rome and thrown into jail, where he met
This letter went with him, a greeting from
There are two lessons here for today’s Christian leaders. (Please understand that I’m not talking about professional pastors; I’m talking about believers who lead or influence or mentor other believers, though that will include professional pastors.)
1. The people that minister with you or to you are not your people. They belong to another Master, and we need to be completely free with them; we must welcome their service and we must release them freely when their Master calls them to another place, regardless of what it costs us. Hopefully, we’ll send them to their next assignment as more equipped and able servants than when they came to us.
2. There are times when we know the answers better than those whom we’re mentoring; we understand what they need to do better than they do. And sometimes, we could functionally order them to do the “right thing.” But we must resist that! We must give them the freedom to make the decision for themselves, even if (even when) their wrong decision could hurt them and us. We can advise them; we can instruct them, but we cannot – we dare not – make the decision for them, else we make them dependent on us, not on Him. And woe unto us if we make someone dependent on us!
This was a tough lesson in
The Bible doesn’t tell the rest of the story, but church history does:
We can trust people to make the right decision, but even if it’s difficult, we still must make that choice: it’s their decision, let them make it, even if they make it wrong.