Sacred and Profane

Don't conform, do engage.

You may or may not have heard of David Vetter but you’ve probably heard of his story; he was the boy in the bubble, who lived all but the first eight seconds of his life in a sterile environment to protect him from germs. It’s a tragic story of a boy isolated from the world around him and a bubble that, set up with great intent, came to be a prison. I’ve known some folks like that, so scared of evil around every corner that they run their lives like the boy in the bubble. Their homes run on lock down to avoid any people with problems entering, their lives run on an exhausting schedule of trying to avoid the darkness they perceive in every situation. If we always see the potential for bad and run from it, then we end up not only ineffectual as Christians but ineffectual as human beings.

While reading Leviticus recently I found some understanding of what can fuel such thoughts within us. It was so difficult to fulfil all the laws of cleanliness to be able to bring even the most simple of offerings before God. The whole book holds a spotlight on how impossible it is to make ourselves clean enough to be in constant relationship with God. There is a terrifying story of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, who decided to get out the incense and bring an offering before God. In their drunken state they saw no need to waste time waiting for God’s fire to come down and consume it, one of the two produced a taper and got the show on the road by lighting the fire themselves. God responded by sending His own fire not to consume the offering but to consume them. Their bodies lay charred outside the entrance to the tent until Moses ordered two of their kinsman to carry the corpses outside of the camp. That’s pretty terrifying. The next thing God does is tell Priests not to even think about making offerings drunk, and then He lays down a command:

You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean.
– Leviticus 10:10 (ESV)

That could so easily make us think that we had to live our lives like the boy in the bubble, constantly trying to avoid infection from the world, and yet I remain entirely convicted that to do so is not only a mistake but is a sin. It’s to practice a form of Godliness but to deny the power thereof. The key to understanding any of the Old Testament books is the same as the key to understanding any of the New Testament books; in fact, it’s the same as the key to understanding anything at all. The key is the life of Jesus Christ. Is Leviticus relevant to the modern day Christian? Yes. Is the modern day Christian to abide by Levitical law? No, no, and a thousand times no! The books of the law stand as an example of all that we would have to achieve just to earn the right for one priest, once a year, to enter into the holiest place. The books of the law are a mirror to our own inabilities and imperfections, but they’re no longer a set of rules to live by – they exist to throw the spotlight on Jesus and demonstrate to us the magnitude of what He has done.

We no longer have this divide in our lives because Jesus death was a game changer; His blood makes things clean that no amount of offerings or obedience ever could have. God demonstrated this to Peter on a roof top in Joppa by lowering down a sheet full of food that was unclean by Levitical law and demonstrating that when God makes something clean it is thoroughly clean. God demonstrated this that same day when His spirit fell on a Roman Centurion called Cornelius and gentiles were welcomed into the kingdom. He demonstrated it when the four inch thick curtain in the temple was torn clean in two, from top to bottom to demonstrate exactly who was doing the tearing.

If we live in a bubble, we’re basically saying that the God we believe in isn’t powerful enough. To refuse to engage with the culture and society around us is to make God small and the world big. It’s incompatible for us to declare the great power of our saviour while being scared to engage with our worlds.

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
– 1 John 4:4 (ESV)

Sometimes I think that we can need to refresh our perspectives a little. It’s not that there aren’t dangerous things in our world but Paul said not to conform to the world, he didn’t say not to engage with it. If Jesus can handle death and hell, he’s probably able to get your back while you take Him into your world. Too often throughout history Christians have pulled away from society and isolated themselves like the boy in the bubble but it’s hard to change the world when you won’t go out and you won’t let anyone else in.

Getting perspective on who Christ is and what He has done is essential if we’re to engage properly with the world around us. When we are walking in the confidence that comes from what He has done we’re equipped to be an agent for change. So how do we tell if we’re engaging with the world or conforming to it? If we’re going in His strength we can engage, if we go in our own weakness then we’ll conform. It is all about Jesus.

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Photo from Schmaeche, used under Creative Commons Licence.

3 Comments

  • Gill says:

    Brilliant Pete.

  • Rachel says:

    This I so good reminds me of a quote from Relentless by Tom Rawls “The church was never meant to be an inward focused naval gazing organisation caught up with its own survival meeting its own needs and keep sinners at arms length”

  • Huw says:

    Thanks Pete. A very helpful post once again – and as always, beautifully written. Thanks.

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