Becoming a subject of the invisible kingdom–the Kingdom of God–is the most spectacular and supernatural thing that will ever happen to you. But it might seem like a bit of an anticlimax. Most of the changes that take place are not immediately visible to ourselves or to others. Suddenly having a living spirit in direct communication with the Spirit of God makes all the difference . . . or does it?
Granted, there are some things that might need to change right away for some people. If you’re a drug dealer or a thief or a porn mogul, you might want to start looking for another job, but as long as your present lifestyle doesn’t involve active sin, there’s no need to change it as a new believer. Stay where you are and allow God to direct your life from there. This is the message Paul had for the Corinthian Christians in 1 Corinthians 7:17-24. Check it out–my commentary follows. As always, please feel free to add your own input. I’d love to hear from you.
If God calls you, that doesn’t necessarily mean a change in your situation in this world. It certainly doesn’t free you of your obligations and responsibilities. Does it mean we should drop our old friends? Does it mean we should leave our unbelieving spouse? Should we quit our day job and enroll in ministry school? Or maybe we should just start trekking through the mountains from village to village spreading the gospel to the best of our understanding?
Becoming a Christ follower means death–death to the kingdom of this world. But it doesn’t mean death to your family and friends or to your ethnic identity, your nation or your profession. God may call you at some point to change your life’s work or to leave behind your friends (if they are a bad influence on you), and it’s possible that becoming a Christian could stress your marriage if your spouse hates your new faith (though she shouldn’t be led to hate it by any self-righteousness or other offensive behavior on your part). I guess what I’m trying to say here is that Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians in this passage will not always apply in all circumstances, but is a foundational statement of the effect our conversion to Christianity should and should not have on our relationships and responsibilities.
Paul says to the Corinthians that the married believer should not seek to dissolve her marriage to an unbeliever. This might seem like a no-brainer to us today, but in Paul’s time it was a necessary point to be made. He tells them that the uncircumcised needn’t become circumcised. Some of the gentile Christians were feeling pressure to become more “Jewish”. Paul assures them this is not necessary or desirable. He also exhorts the Jewish believers not to leave behind their Jewish heritage. Though they are no longer under the Mosaic law, they are still Jewish. God enjoys all of our different cultures and ethnicities. He made us creative–like Himself. It’s perfectly acceptable to worship God in any godly manner while still integrating our own cultural identity.
Paul even says to slaves, “Don’t let it bother you.” That’s pretty hard to assimilate, but we need to remember that there was absolutely zero possibility of doing away with slavery during the Roman empire. That possibility never raised its head until Christianity had mellowed the world for more than a thousand years. First you needed governments that held human rights as a value. It took a very long time to get to that point. Even today we have places and situations in which slavery still exists–whether legally or not, whether declared or de facto. Paul says, “If you can get free, do it, but remember that in Christ you are free, and believers who are freemen according to the world are still slaves of Christ. In other words, we are all of equal status before the throne of God.
Since we are bought with so great a price–imagine it: we were paid for by the blood of God–we must not become slaves to men. In Paul’s day, you could sell yourself into slavery if you couldn’t handle life as a free person. Still, a person would likely only do something so rash in response to crushing debt. Crushing debt is its own form of slavery, and many of us know this all too well. In some cases–medical situations come to mind–debt cannot be avoided, but most of us are enslaved by our own lust for owning loads and loads of toys. Is it worth it? To become enslaved to a credit card company (or companies) for the sake of the latest gadgets, the most beautiful of homes, the latest and greatest in transportation, the most lavish vacations, the best of the ATV, boating, motorcycling worlds? Remember we have been paid for by the blood of God. Dare we sell ourselves so cheaply?
Becoming a believer in Christ should and does, if we are genuine, bring about some big changes in our lives. As we grow in God’s grace, our personalities will become more Christlike; His love will shine through us; we die to sin more and more each day. But the biggest changes are happening inside and shining through to the outside. We don’t dump our heritage, our friends and family, our jobs, or our avocations. We are still the same people–only different. We have different priorities. We cannot allow ourselves to become enslaved to this world because now we belong to a different world–God’s Kingdom. Let’s endeavor to keep our eyes on Christ and live our lives in such a way that we will show all those around us what the God of love is truly like.
May God’s grace live in your hearts richly,