I know I've posted on this topic before, but God has put it on my mind a lot lately, and Dr. Olsen preached on it in chapel today.
The pendulum in Christianity is constantly swinging back and forth. A group of Christians will become upset about the lack of Holiness among another groups of Christians, so they will go in the opposite direction and become extremely focused on rules. Then the people who get upset about the legalism this creates, go in the opposite direction and they become very liberal.
We should pursue the radical center of what God's word directs us to do...nothing more, nothing less.
As far as separation goes...we have our focus all wrong on this, usually. Dr. Olsen says our doctrine of separation should "be defined by what we are separated to [God], not what we are separated from." So many churches these days are so focussed on separation, and who they need to separate from, that they completely disregard all the verses that talk about unity among Christians. We're good at separation, because it appeals to our fleshly desire to hurt those around us. This sounds harsh...but in reality, it is true. It takes less energy on our part to separate, than it takes to genuinely go to someone in love, and try to figure out why they are doing what they are doing. We are so divisive, and condemning. A decision to separate should be made with much prayer, and many questions should be asked before separation happens. Don't just assume because everyone else is separating from someone else, that that means we should...we Christians are far too "bandwagon" when it comes to separation.
Allow me to address something else that Dr. Olsen talked about today that is related to these things I have talked about.
So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”
I Peter 1:13-16 (NLT)
We take this command to be Holy in two directions normally. You have the liberal side who take this command, and disregard it because they say "I'm not under the law, but under grace."
Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.
Romans 6:1-4 (NLT)
This passage condemns such a practice. We should not use the grace given to us to make us sin all the more. This is sinful and of the flesh!
The other tendency is for us to become self-righteous when we hear this command to be Holy. This is just as bad, because this is of the flesh as well! And it's easy to fall into this trap and stay there, because it feels so right to us. We feel spiritual when we fix up our outside. But we can become self-righteous and have a heart that is so far from God.
We as Christians must pursue the radical center!
How do we do this? I've talked about this before too...pursue God. Pursue a right relationship with Him...seek to know and understand Him better! This renewing of our mind to think on our Holy God will clean us from the inside, and then when we change our outward actions because of this...it will be for the right reasons. It will be because we realize that those fleshly things are displeasing to Him...we won't be doing it because it pleases man...
We complicate our Christianity so much...because our flesh tells us that we need to "do!" We need to step back and let God "do!" When we let Him truly work in our lives, and in our hearts...He will do the cleaning of our lives that needs to be done!