Separated Not Isolated
By Ronald and Nathele Graham
Christians live in the physical world and every day we are tempted to stumble. How do we live in this world and continue to live for Christ? There has to be separation between us and those who live opposed to Christ, but we cannot isolate ourselves. In His final prayer prior to His arrest, Jesus prayed for those men who had followed Him. Jesus knew what they would face, but He also knew that they had to stay in this world in order to spread the Gospel. “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” John 17:14-15. Those men who were His disciples would face many trials but they did not isolate themselves from the unsaved. They shared the Gospel with both Jews and Gentiles and that is why you and I know Jesus Christ today. They did not isolate themselves from this world, but they did separate themselves from worldly living. They devoted their lives to Christ and service to Him, and so must we.
Many professing Christians today seem to have joined the world and are neither separated nor are they isolated. I’m sure we have all heard the verse admonishing against being unequally yoked. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14. Many times this verse is used to stop a marriage between a Christian and non-Christian, and rightly so. Yet this verse has a much wider meaning and goes beyond marriage. The New Testament writings have their foundation in Old Testament Scripture. God’s truth never changes. “Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together.” Deuteronomy 22:10. These two animals may share a field and graze together, but when yoked together they walk the same path. So it is with us. We are in this world with unbelievers be we aren’t to harness, or yoke, ourselves with anyone or anything that will turn us from our Christian walk. That includes business partnerships, friendships, and can even reach to being yoked with secular music, television, and movies. For instance, when a Christian watches movies filled with foul language and sin gone wild, those things enter the thoughts of the person. Soon foul language slips into everyday language, especially if our friends use the same language. It is an easy step to become yoked with the sin shown in movies because it seems acceptable. Then, because the sin looks so tempting, we begin to see it as acceptable and God’s ways seem old fashioned. We separate from God rather than from worldly behavior.
When we accept Christ as our Saviour we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. That fact isn’t something to take lightly. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16. The Christians in Corinth faced many of the same problems we face today. Corinth was full of idolaters and pagan worship was everywhere. Instead of separating from these pagans, the Corinthians were behaving like them. The pagans were joining the congregation at Corinth, but instead of bringing these people into a right walk with Christ, the Corinthians were following the pagan ways. We see that same thing happening today. It is right to bring the lost into our congregations, but we need to lovingly and steadfastly teach them God’s ways. “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” 2 Corinthians 10:5. When a person accepts Christ their attitude, way of dress, choice of words, and the friends we keep company with need to change from worldly to Godly. Isolating ourselves from the world around us isn’t what God expects, but separating from the yoke of the world is expected.
The idea of joining a monastery and being isolated from everyone who is not a Christian, is not Biblical. On the contrary we are to have contact with the worldly people around us and witness to them. Jesus’ last words to His disciples were for them to share the Gospel with all people. In order to share the Gospel we have to have contact with the unsaved. We just need to not allow them to change us. “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. I Corinthians 5:9-10. We cannot expect non-Christians to behave in a godly manner. In order to witness to these people we need to be around them, but we aren’t to socialize with them…not “company” with them. Wherever you are there are worldly distractions, but by praying continually and studying God’s word our hearts will be turned to Him, not to the world.
If we compromise our faith by yoking with unbelievers we are really declaring God to be our enemy. “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” James 4:4. A born again Christian should feel the need to draw closer to God and into His fellowship. God loves us and we should not see Him as an enemy. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-20. God is not our enemy, but we are His ambassadors. As ambassadors, people look to us to help them understand God. We cannot represent God properly if we don’t separate from the ways of the world, but we cannot be His ambassador if we isolate ourselves from the lost people around us.
Christians can become stumbling blocks to the people around us. There are two errors that Christians make. One is to be like the Pharisees, being puffed up with our own holiness. Our friends and family should see a change in attitude and actions, but not a holier than thou attitude. It is by God’s grace that we are saved; our salvation comes from our faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9. That should humble us. The God of all creation became a man to purchase our salvation. He also died for those lost people around us, but if we act superior to them they will not see His grace. Be a humble example of God’s love. Don’t boast, but don’t compromise. The men who wrote the Holy Spirit inspired letters in our New Testament stood firm on God’s precepts, but they wrote with God’s love.
The other stumbling block to the lost is when Christians behave like the world. Rather than striving to turn away from sin, many Christians feel there is such freedom in Christ that continuing in sin is acceptable. That is wrong. If a friend who hasn’t accepted Christ sees you indulging in the same lifestyles and sin as everyone else, you look the same as a non-Christian. If you cuss up a storm or the entertainment you embrace is violent and pornographic, you haven’t separated from the world. When a nonbeliever sees your lifestyle they don’t see anything special in your life and you are a very poor ambassador for God. So, what difference does it make if they accept Christ or not. “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.” Romans 12:2. Separate from the sins of this world; God will change your life if you allow it. Get to know Him and His ways by prayerfully studying His word and applying it to your life. Don’t stumble someone by not living a set-apart life.
Sadly, there are many self-proclaimed Christians who have not submitted to Christ and are living life like the unsaved live. “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; which such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” 1 Corinthians 5:11-13. Paul makes it clear that we are to not keep company with “any man that is called a brother” who indulges in the worldly way of sin. That means even if someone claims to be a Christian but lives a worldly life you aren’t to be close friends with them. Be a strong witness to them and bring them back into fellowship, but don’t be yoked with them.
It is not being judgmental to separate from those who don’t strive to honor God’s word. God has never concealed from us what behavior he expects from His children. In Genesis we read that He expressly told Adam to not eat the forbidden fruit because eating it would bring death. Adam and Eve believed Satan’s lie and ate the fruit. They found out that God was right. From then on God has been very clear about how we should behave, but people will insist on embracing sin. The Ten Commandments are a good place to start in learning God’s ways. “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” 2 Corinthians 7:1. Be renewed daily by the Holy Spirit. Move away from sin and separate from people who embrace sinful ways. Be separated from the sin in this world, but don’t be isolated from the sinners.
God bless you all,
All original scripture is “theopneustos” God breathed.
This commentary was started by Ron Graham before his death on March 14, 2013, and finished by his wife, Nathele Graham.
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