Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
God accepts nothing less than perfection from his people (a subject I write about frequently). As such, after becoming a Christian and having the Holy Spirit remind me of everything I’ve ever done wrong, then reading about all the sins of the Bible, and having the Holy Spirit augment reality into Sin-O-Vision for the rest of the world, I also now have far less tolerance for sin. I can only assume this is the same for other believers, certainly others in the Bible share a no-tolerance policy for the sin of others. Check out what David says in Psalms 101:3-4,
I will set before my eyes
No vile thing.
The deeds of faithless men I hate;
They will not cling to me.
Men of perverse heart shall be far from me;
I will have nothing to do with evil.
As a believer, I don’t want to associate with the wicked either (lest I be brought back into sin myself), for James says, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who choose to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4). Actually, James pretty much wrote the book on no-sin-tolerance policy for the New Testament believer, it’s called the Epistle of James. In fact, James tells us to compare our lives as believers of Christ to that of the prophets (who no one listened to during their lives). He writes, “Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord” (James 5:10). So what do the prophets have to say? Let’s ask Jeremiah, probably the foremost expert on not fitting in after becoming a believer. He writes,
Oh, that I had a place in the desert
A lodging place for travelers,
So that I might leave my people
And go away from them;
For they are all adulterers,
A crowd of unfaithful people (Jeremiah 9:2).
What a bleak future we have to look forward to after accepting Christ!
Ok, ok, so maybe things aren’t as bad as the Scriptures make them out to be. I mean, it is true that the Bible says,
Therefore come out from them
And be separate,
Says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
And I will receive you (2 Corinthians 6:17).
And, when speaking of the world, the Word does say,
All have turned aside,
They have together become corrupt;
There is no one who does good,
Not even one (Psalms 14:3).
Even with these scriptures in mind, though, the life of a Christian does not have to be (nor should it be) a life of isolation.
We need to first remember that God demands perfection, something we all fall short of. John writes, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Therefore, Paul reminds us in Romans 3:9, “What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin.” We’re all under sin! Remember, that although our hearts are with God, our bodies are still made of the same stuff as the rest of our cursed world. This is why Paul writes in Romans 2:1,
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.
And James tells, us,
Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you- who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:11-12)
That’s right, for as much as he hates sin, even James knows that he has no place to complain or judge those around him. In fact, right before comparing the believer’s walk to that of the prophets, James says, “Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:9) So we know that though the world is filled with sin, we too are in the world and have no right to cast judgment on our neighbors.
What, then, is a believer to do? First, come out from them, not in body, but in Spirit. That is to say, don’t become a hermit, but while in the world, do your best to stop sinning. Hate sin, of course, but love those in the world, for it is written that, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). So Paul writes to us,
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:30-32).
Notice that by judging and badmouthing others (even though they do not believe in God), we are grieving the Holy Spirit. For only Jesus is the judge of this world. And what does Jesus tell us? “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves” (Luke 10:3). We are to go out into the world; “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation’” (Mark 16:15). So yes, be separate from the world in Spirit, but use your time still on earth to bring more people into the arms of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
But when you are tired of this sinful world, and disgusted by the evil around you, remember that you are not alone. All around the world you have brothers who feel the same: the Church. Acts 2:42-44 tells us about the first church,
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common.
Nothing has changed. Christians have a support system in other believers, and the Bible gives us a good model on how to use it,
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:46-47).
So, by enjoying the fellowship of other believers and by going out to save those who are lost, you will find that the Christian walk is not lonely at all, but a very social, friend-filled existence.