“Keep yourself unstained from the world” James 1:27c ESV
Test 3 – Not being “polluted” (NIV) by the world.
What does, being unstained or not polluted by the world mean? For some they would think of separating oneself from the world and only keeping some sense of holy company. Paul ruled out that idea in his 1st letter to the Corinthians, ‘I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people – not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.” Jesus set the opposite example to living separated from people perceived to be sinners, he was regularly criticized by those who thought of themselves as righteous for mixing and eating with sinners. However, while mixing with people in the wider world Jesus himself did not partake of their sin. His mission was to bring the good news of salvation. Jesus’ repost to the criticizing scribes and Pharisees was to say, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’ Mark 2:17 Being like Jesus then seems to include deliberately spending time with people who are not yet believers and are pursuing different goals by different motivations. For long standing Christians this can be quite a challenge as there is tendency for friendships and relationships to increasingly be limited to other Christians. But this is one of the ways Christian and Christ like life differs from others who happily only associate with the likeminded.
James is linking the Christian life to the character of Jesus whose typology in the Old Testament is that of the perfect sacrificial lamb, whose blood was put on the side and tops of the doorframes so the angel of death would pass over. ‘Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats.’ Exodus 12:5 Isaiah picks up on the theme of the Messiah being a sacrificial lamb, ‘He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before it’s shearers is silent; so he opened not his mouth.’ Isaiah 53:7 Isaiah goes on to say, ‘he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.’ Isaiah 53:9b
James like Peter was writing to exiled Christians. He was concerned that believers should not adopt the ways of the people who surrounded them whilst actively living among them. They were to be gospel people and therefore their lives should be blameless like Christ’s was blameless. We know this is not fully possible but God’s will for us is to be holy. Peter quotes Leviticus when he writes, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’ 1 Peter 1:16 Peter says it is living with the knowledge of what Christ has done as a spotless lamb that enables us to live a Christ like life. ‘Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.’ 1 Peter 1:19
How does that work out in practice? Peter give us four ways. Jesus’ resurrection, gives us both faith and hope. 1 Peter 1:21 Obedience to the truth which we can find in the bible. 1 Peter 1:22 Sincere brotherly love (sisterly love counts as well) which comes from a pure heart. Spiritual birth which comes from the Holy Spirit. 1 Peter 1:23
Have we reviewed our lives to ensure we do not only mix with other believers but have extended our circle of friends and associates to deliberately include people who are yet to believe?
How do we approach living a Christ like life?
Have we a clear understanding of Jesus’ character?
Refiner’s fire – Brian Doerksen