I was sitting with a friend a few years ago in a parking lot after lunch. We were chatting. He was telling me about a certain music style that was “worldly”. At that point I asked him to define worldly for me and he basically said it was the style that made it worldly. From this understanding of worldly I would say that he has an interpretation that worldliness begins with the external rather than internal therefore, he has determined that certain styles—as opposed to all styles—are worldly.
With this basic understanding you have to discriminate based on stylistic issues rather than some other criteria. It is true that we as Christians should discriminate, but the question is how do you discriminate and/or what is the criteria for discrimination? My friend could look at a person based on their style and determine if that person was “worldly” or not. Maybe you can. Personally, I think that is a dangerous approach and can get a bit tricky. I think that most people agree that Jesus looked like his culture. I don’t think he had that sparkling white robe that we have seen in some pictures and everybody else’s is off-white or earth tones. I think it would be hard to pick Jesus out of a crowd.
In some instances folks had to ask who Jesus was rather than easily identifying him. External observation is needful, but not always accurate. External observation can be somewhat of a “Gnostic approach” to assessment. The Gnostics believed, in part, that the world was bad and knowledge was good. They didn’t like the things of the earth and put a precedent on the internal, the “Gnosis” (knowledge). Therefore, they stayed away from the earthly because it would defile. This is similar to the fundamentalist in some respects. They determine what is bad and they stay away from it. In some cases they not only stay away from the bad, but they stay away from the person or thing that is “next” to the bad in order not to be contaminated by the bad through association with the one (or thing) that is next to the bad. This is second and third degree separation as it has been called.
It not only sets a Pharisaical hedge around the bad, but puts a hedge around the hedge and more. This creates a culture of folks who can be noted for their spirituality by the number of hedges they set-up. Thus you get into severe asceticism that at some point has to breakdown.
For example, you will have ladies that won’t wear pants around other Christians, but will wear them in other venues, like around the house or walking or in the gym, etc. Others won’t go to a movie theater, but will rent a video or watch a movie on TV. Still others would not dare drink wine, but are obese and/or gossips. Again, whenever you set-up a false paradigm there has to be inconsistencies somewhere, at some point. You cannot live in our world and have those kinds of anti-cultural customs. It doesn’t make sense.
What is sad about this is that we now have a Christian culture that is ripe for insecure people with a bent toward legalism (we all have that bent, btw) and it is a nice way to keep yourself away from things that make you uncomfortable. As a fundamentalist relative said to me three years ago, “I have no ‘lost’ friends.” How sad. Jesus had many lost friends.
Thanks be to God that he did not separate from me. He pursued me, loved me and in time saved me.