Here is a snippet from an imagined conversation I didn’t hear as I passed a dad walking his son to daycare one morning.
“Dad, am I Finnish?”
“No son, you are Chinese.”, smiled the father.
“But we live in Finland, and in the daycare they speak Finnish.” replied the son.
“Ok. But what do we speak at home?”, asked the Dad.
“Chinese.”, replied the boy without a thought, and then continued, “but we eat Finnish food at the daycare. So I am Finnish at the daycare?”
“No, you are Chinese, Your mother and I moved here from China only six years ago. We are Chinese, so you are Chinese”.
The boy thought for a moment. “But I was born here, though.”
“True.”, replied the father, “but you have Chinese passport, so you’re a Chinese citizen. You are Chinese.”
“But how can I live in Finland and not be Finnish?” continued the son.
You know, this conversation could go on forever. Anyone who has children will know this. I dare say in my imagination this conversation will continue in the afternoon too.
As a Brit living now permanently in Finland, I understand where the boy might have been coming from. I live here, but I’m British and I find myself taking on Finnish habits. Keeping about 2.5m distance in any queue, but then (sort of) happy to be squashed up in the bus / sauna. The Finns avoidance of unnecessary small talk has only made my own lack of ability even more pronounced!
Some days I not sure who I am supposed to be. When it comes be doing the Jesus-follower-thing, some days it’s hard to work out what the “Christian-thing-to-do/feel/say/act/think” even is.
There is a line that Christ followers sometimes use when things get confusing or difficult to handle; when we find ourselves at cultural odds between how we see things and how non-Chrisians see things. Sometimes even when things “aren’t going our way”.
“In the world, not of the world.”
This is the bit of Christian jargon that gets me in a tail spin. It is rooted in John 17:14-19. Sometimes it has even been used with a tone of, “Gosh it’s a real struggle here. I can’t wait for it to be over.”. David Mathis says more about this in his blog, and reading what he wrote completely changed the direction of this article.
We often miss-understand what Jesus meant when says that His followers should live in this world but not be of it. Jesus didn’t actually say this directly to His followers. He prays these words at the end of the last meal He shares with then. He is actually talking to His Dad about His friends.
Here’s the John 17 bit:
I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
The key phrase is near the end: “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world“. You see, God loves the whole world so much that He sent Jesus, His own son, into it to save it. It isn’t in the Father’s heart that anyone would be lost. The intention is that we are all able to live for ever.
By praying that the disciples, past and present, are to be in world whilst at the same time not of it, Jesus wasn’t suggesting that we are to be some kind of spiritual ex-patriot. He never says that. That’s not what He was.
All through the new testament Jesus calls those following Him his disciples, followers, students and friends. He never called them, or us, to be campers, lodgers or guests. He’s sending us out into the world to do what He did. To tell it about a heavenly Father it doesn’t understand. He’s asking us to walk as He did.
Fine. But what does walking like Jesus look like?
It’s not about compromise; about finding the middle line between what I heard on Sunday and how things are on Monday.
It’s telling the good news about God to the poor in spirit, binding up and loving on the broken hearted, telling those who are captive to themselves that they can be free and releasing the prisoners from their spiritual darkness.