As the life of Jesus was lived in the world, so should the life of a Christian be lived in it, not out of it.
This is according to Rev Prof William Peter Stephens, former Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of the Gambia and former President of the Methodist Conference of Great Britain. Prof Stephens was preaching during the morning chapel service, on 29 March.
Prof Stephens said, “For Jesus the world was God’s world, to be delighted in and to be enjoyed. That is why he prayed, ‘I pray not to take them out of the world’. The life that they were to live was in the world. The Christian life is not away from it but in it, engaged in it, delighted in it because it is what God has given us to enjoy and delight in. It is in the world not out of the world,” Prof Stephens said.
Prof Stephens noted that, unlike John the Baptist, Jesus did not live his life out of the world but in it.
“Jesus lived in the world, shared in people’s pain and pleasures. He was one day at a funeral and the other at a marriage feast at Cana in Galilea. He enjoyed the company of all the people, not simply of religious people, but at times of men who had gone over to the occupation forces and become tax collectors and he scandalised people by that,” he said.
Like Jesus, Christians are sent into the world, not just to be in it, but because there are things for them to be doing in it – the setting free of the oppressed, preaching good news to the poor, sharing their faith with those who do not have it and living a life that manifests the love of God.
He said, “Most of the time, we do not want to get involved in the issues of this world. We do not want the risk, the uncertainty, the sacrifice of being involved. God is a God who gets involved in human affairs. For God so loved the world that he got involved in human affairs and sent his only son into the world. To be disciples we need to be involved and enable people to live in this world with its diversity, even with those things that are alien to us and that we are not at home with. They are part of the richness of life that God has given to us.”
Prof Stephens cautioned that though Christians are in the world, they should not be of the world.
“The world and riches are given to us to enjoy and delight in but not to become our god, our idol. If that is what we live for, then we are of the world. To be of the world means to adopt the attitudes of the world. We take over the attitudes and the way other people have of looking at life. We see it as for our pleasure, position, prestige or popularity, Prof Stephens said.