"Therefore, 'Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord, Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.' " 2 Corinthians 6:17

I recall watching an old John Wayne western from the 1930's, before he became a star. The script was horrible, and the acting was worse. But there was a line that came to mind today that fits with what I write. Those old B movie westerns featured the usual "bad guys," outlaws, and "good guys." Wayne, leading the good guys to a confrontation with the local outlaw gang gave this instruction to his followers concerning the coming conflict. "We will wear these white bandanas to distinguish ourselves from the outlaws." That line gives rise to the question for all who profess to be His: What is it that distinguishes us from a fallen, outlaw world that is all around us?

The political landscape gives proof that our culture is very willing to have leadership that exhibits no moral integrity. We see it on both sides of the issues. The moral and cultural decay is everywhere, and everyone, including a very real segment of the church, is living out the old adage concerning the frog being slowly boiled to death as it acclimates itself to the increasing heat of the water its in. In the midst of it all, again, what is it that distinguishes us from all that is happening around us? What does an unbelieving world see as marking us as "different?" Is it that we regularly attend church? Attend Bible studies? That we abstain from drugs and alcohol? That our language is much less vulgar and profane that what is easily accepted in the culture? These are all outward aspects of a belief system, but they mark us as nothing more than good, moral people. There are many good, moral people around us. But leading a good, moral life is not the distinguishing mark of a follower of Christ. It is the undeniable presence and manifestation of Jesus Christ in the life. This is something far more than good works, good lifestyle, and what we would call clean living. It is His Life Presence within us that will bring us into direct and open conflict with an outlaw world system. Except that system will see those lives as the ones who are the outlaws. It was how the religious and political system of His day saw Christ, and He died the death of an outlaw, and rose from that death a Savior.

Many in the church are reacting to recent decisions concerning bathroom usage with anger, boycotts, and a deep desire to fight back. I understand this, but have we any idea of the landscape surrounding the first century church and the Roman world it was in? The Roman public baths, which were in every place of consequence in the empire, were scenes of total depravity, and it was an open depravity. All manner of debauchery took place in them, and it was so because it was an outgrowth of the value system of that world. Complete moral breakdown was the norm, yet in that norm, the Church, though hated, persecuted, and maligned by the surrounding culture, thrived and grew. It did so because they were not a people who merely gathered together a couple of times a week. It was not because they had great men's, women's, and teen ministries. It was because they lived in the power of His resurrected life. They lived lives that gave powerful testimony to His Life and glory. Wherever they were, they manifested His life, and that manifestation brought His Light into direct conflict with the surrounding darkness. Just as His, Paul's, and every other spirit filled followers has down through the ages. Yes, they did good works, lived moral lives, but it was the presence, the manifestation of Christ in and through them that turned an outlaw world upside down. Nothing of that has changed, and it is that which in our day will do the same with the outlaw world we live in.

Such a life doesn't come easy. It comes only by way of the cross. The risen Christ showed as proof to His disciples, the nail prints oh His hands, and the deep wound on His side. He got these at the cross. Paul said that he bore on his body the "brand marks of Christ." He got the marks from a life lived in the power of His resurrection that came from his total willingness to surrender his life to Him that he might live in the strength of His life. To be salt and light to a world trapped in darkness, we must do the same. We must live in such power and presence. It will bring reproach, even hatred. It will certainly bring death. Death to all that is not Him within us, so that we can live in all that is Him. And it will turn our part of the world upside down. It's what will distinguish us. What's our spiritual "bandana?" Does it distinguish you....and me? As a friend put it, Jesus didn't go to the world ask if they would allow Him to join them. He told everyone that if they would follow Him, they must "take up their cross," and go wherever He led. With the latter, the frog leaps out of the boiling water into true life. With the first, the frog remains in what it thinks is comfort.....till death takes him. Which life looks most like our life?

Blessings,
Pastor O

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