Friday, 22 November 2013

When no-one can tell the difference

George Orwell's political satire Animal Farm ends with these words; 'The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again: but already it was impossible to say which was which.' The group which had sought to provide a better alternative to the previous regime, had now become so like those whom they had sought to replace, that it was no longer possible to tell the difference between the two. This illustration can also be applied, not only to the political sphere about which Orwell wrote, but also to the religious world today. The church, instead of providing a better alternative to what the world has to offer, has in many cases become so like the world, that it has become difficult to tell the difference between them.

The church has become like the world in many senses; it has become like the world in its music. The sound of a congregation singing holy praise unto the Lord has been replaced by a 'Christian' rock band, which would not look out of place at Glastonbury. It has become like the world in its fashion; it is often difficult to tell by looking at many Christians whether they are going to a church service or to a nightclub, the trend often being to either dress down, or dress without thought of modesty. So also have individual Christians become like the world in many ways; in their language, in their attitude to entertainment, and in their morality. The standards which once made the believer stand out from the world have been set aside and the lines of distinction have become blurred. Indeed as we look from the Christian to the world, and back again it is now almost impossible to say which is which.

Romans 12:1-2 says 'I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.' How can we be faithful to the exhortation of Paul in these verses when we have much of the world in our lives? Neither the church nor the Christian is to conform to the standards of the world, for the more we reflect the world, the less we will reflect Christ.

What is the result then of the church becomes so like the world in every aspect of its being? What happens when it becomes difficult to see any difference between the church and the world? The sad truth is that the church becomes ineffective and is unable to impact the world for Christ. It ceases to fulfill its purpose and calling to be salt and light. We cannot change the world by becoming like it, but the church ought to stand out, not as odd, although some will view it so, but as different. What do people see when they look at us? Do they see someone just like themselves, only attending some church services. Or do they see someone with different with different standards, interests and desires. When they attend church do they find something similar to the world, or do they come to something that is clearly different. Let us not but conformed to the world in any sense, but always seeking to follow the bible in every aspect of our lives.

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