There are two words that are both applicable to the place of the Christian in relation to the rest of the world:
Jesus said both words about His brothers and sisters when He was praying for us in John 17:
“I have given them Your word. The world hated them because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world. I am not praying that you take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one” (John 17:14-15).
Jesus did not pray that we are taken out of the world, but that we would remain in the world. And yet while we are “in”, we are not “of.”
“Of” meaning of the same kind or sort. We are not “of” because we have been made something wholly different. Sure, at first glance, we might look like we are “of” but we’re not. Just because we’re “in” doesn’t mean we’re “of.” It helps me to think about this dynamic in terms of trail mix.
Now I have a hypothesis: Very few people in the world really like trail mix.
Sure, they say they do, just like they say they like to camp, but most of us really only eat trail mix for one reason: It contains M&M’s. Before we crack open that bag of peanuts, pretzels, raisins and chocolate we check the ratio between the candy and everything else because we’re in it for the sweets. In fact, most of us start by picking those multi-colored nuggets out first and sometimes throw away whatever is left.
We can do that because trail mix is what it says – it’s a mixture. The candy is “in” the mixture, but it’s not “of” the mixture. The candy is still candy even though it’s mixed in with all the fiber rich stuff.
Like that bag, believers in Christ are mixed into the world. And like the candy in the trail mix, Christians must retain their distinction even though they’re mixed into all other kinds of work, life situations, and overall culture. But Christians aren’t only meant to be in this mix of the world; they’re meant to influence the world they’re in.
We are meant to use our influence to count for what matters.
Funny thing about that bag of trail mix – even though there are all different kinds of things in the bag, it all ends up tasting at least a little bit like chocolate. The sweetness has flavored everything else.
That’s what Christians do, too. We mix with the world, retain our distinction, and we end up flavoring every situation we are in with our influence.