Christian Worldliness and Covid-19
Mark Vowels, CGO Director
The Struggle with Worldliness
I struggle with worldliness. My flesh likes the world’s music, its movies, its pleasures, its excesses. But having lived my whole life within the confines of conservative Christendom, I really don’t have bad habits that I need to confess regarding “worldliness.” I’m not guilty, at least, of external worldliness in the way conservative Christendom generally labels things as worldly. “I don’t smoke, drink, or chew and I don’t run with those who do.” Yep, that’s me. Simple, pure, godlike.
The Reality of Worldliness
But worldliness is not just about what I wear, or watch, or listen to. For those who have been enculturated to avoid certain components of “the world,” it’s second nature to stay away from things on “the list.” Worldliness, however, is much more about embracing the values and priorities of a society where God is not central than it is about the culturally driven fads, fashions, or flavors of the moment (Romans 12:1-2). Conforming to the rules is easy, it is resisting my culture’s way of thinking that I struggle with when it comes to worldliness.
Our Moment of Worldliness
What troubles me right now is the uninhibited worldliness that I am seeing in posts, likes and shares on social media. The incredible divisiveness that has arisen over responses to the Covid-19 pandemic makes me shudder. Blinded to the reality that we are not defending unalterable truth, but are rather mirroring the world’s mindset and priorities, many Christians are making pronouncements about everything from political conspiracies to demands for the preservation of their rights; from sneering at those who are anxious about risks to their health to condemning those who forego wearing a safety mask. We are living in the most opportune moment in our lifetime to show the world what it means to be a Christian, but instead we are showing each other what it means to be like the world.
Jesus and Worldliness
Jesus modeled humility and meekness, refusing to raise his voice against the political and societal disputes of his day (Matthew 12:18-21). He was not driven by the need to win arguments; he was driven by the need to save souls (John 3:17). Because he was kind and empathetic to sinners (Matthew 11:19), the religious leaders of his day accused him of being worldly. And on the eve of his unfathomable sacrifice, he told his followers that the primary proof of our relationship to him is in how we show love to one another (John 13:34-35).
The Apostle Paul, who told others, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1), taught us how to treat one another. Here is a sample of his admonitions:
Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Romans 12:16 Live in harmony with one another.
Romans 14:13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.
Ephesians 4:2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.
Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Colossians 3:13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up.
So, Stop Being Worldly
The Coronavirus pandemic is revealing just how worldly we really are. We are demonstrating our worldliness in our prejudice, class warfare, ethnocentricity, and bitter speech. The plague is showing us what we really value and where we really place our trust.
What will bring hope and peace in this uncertain time is not America, or political parties, or jobs, or stimulus packages, or even vaccinations. What will bring hope is Jesus. And the world will see Jesus when we love one another in ways that defy our cultural assumptions and parochial ideals. Jesus showed His love with a towel, a basin of water and a cross. Maybe we can show ours through our social media posts.
 All Bible quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016).
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.