We are Who We Hang Out With
Well, maybe it is not the best grammar but it seems to be true, we are who we hang out with. As a pastor, I have a lot of concerns for the church. And the more I study, the more I realize how corrupt we are when it comes to interpretation. We see what we want to see.
We have individualized Scripture to the point that we do not understand that Christianity is not about individuals but about the church. We take every demand, every claim, every command as to individuals. But in reality, it is to the church, it was for the church that Christ died. We are redeemed because God has chosen us to be his church. It is all one package chosen and designed by a sovereign God.
I think this is difficult to communicate simply because we don’t really understand what it means to be the church. We are the church, we don’t attend church or visit or go, we are. And if our faith does not drive us to be a part of a local church then perhaps we do not have real faith. While that may seem extreme, the fact is, it is our exceptional materialism that is extreme. We are not lonely little islands floating in the big sea. Rather, we are arms and feet and noses and eyes and ears in the Body of Christ.
There is a general lament in Christendom regarding the weakness of the church. I think it is because we have failed to understand the basics of being the church. The church tends to hang around with the wrong crowd. We are too busy being soccer moms and NASCAR dads to notice that something is wrong. We are who we hang out with. If we act too much like the world then perhaps we are hanging out in the world too much.
Spiritual formation takes place when we take seriously the commands of God. We are told not to forsake the assembling of ourselves. Yet, we live in a world where the average Christian attends irregularly at best. Many have it in their heads that they can only give God an hour or two a month. And with such an attitude, today’s church sinks to a new low.
While some think that saints in prison and few monks in monasteries have achieved a certain level of holiness, we need to understand that holiness is binary, you are either holy or you are not. To be holy does not mean to have a beatific glow and a silly smile on one’s face all the time. It means to separate. Holy people live by God’s rules, not the world’s. Holiness is not perfection, at lest not for humans in this life. We are declared holy by God. That means that we are legally holy whether or not we are, in fact, holy. We are holy because we are in Christ who is holy. But, our purpose in this life now is to become what we have been declared to be. We are to be a holy people.
We cannot become a holy people if we do not hang around with each other. If you spend all your time on the lake, or at the ball field or at concerts of whatever it is that you do, you do not have the time to be with God’s people in worship and in fellowship. And if you do not have a desire to be holy, then you need to examine your heart and your relationship to God. Being in a relationship to God, drives us to holiness.
I think that â€œjourneyâ€ is a great metaphor for us to understand the Christian life. I certainly did not invent it. Journey is found in the Bible and at least one famous Baptist pastor used in his book, Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan. We travel together and encourage each other along the way. The writer of Hebrews says, “And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 ).
Paul tells to teach and admonish each other with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Colossians 3:16). How can we do these things if we do not hang around each other? How can we be the Bride of Christ if we are not preparing together? How can we encourage each other and pray for each other if we do not frequently and regularly meet together? God has been wise in that he has given us a place of comfort and protection where we can find shelter from the world. We find strength and nourishment and confidence in our faith when we come together.
The world is becoming more hostile to Christianity. We do not have many friends left in the world. The world is hostile for a lot of reasons but mainly because Christ threatens their sinful autonomy. When we hang around with the world, we too think we have a kind of autonomy. But we are different if we are truly redeemed. One day, like the Prodigal son, you will find yourself abandoned by the world and it ideas. You will be so alone because you have abandoned God church. Perhaps then like the Prodigal, you will make your way back. And because this where you belong, you will be received with open arms. But why waste all that time and do so much damage to your soul?
Return to Christ and return to your local church because you are who you hang out with.