About Jesus - Steve (Stephen) Sweetman

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Comfortable in Babylon

In BC 586, the Babylonian army overthrew the Jewish nation and decimated Jerusalem.  Many Jews were killed while most of the rest were taken as captives in Babylon.  The prophet Jeremiah predicted their captivity would last seventy years (Jeremiah 29:10).


"This is what the LORD says: 'When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.'"


When Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians in BC 539 it is estimated that there were about one million Jews living in Babylon.  After the fall of Babylon, these Jews were permitted to return to their homeland to rebuild their cultural distinctiveness.  Sadly, only about forty-two thousand Jews embraced the vision to restore their distinct cultural community.  The majority of Jews felt comfortable in Babylon. 


Like the Jews in captivity, as Christians we live in a cultural landscape in which we do not belong. It's what Jesus said, as recorded in John 15:19.   


"If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you."


It's this cultural landscape that Peter warned his audience to be rescued from.  Acts 2:40 reads:


"With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, 'Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.'"


It's that same cultural landscape that the apostle John advised his readers not to love.  1 John 2:15 reads:   


"Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them." 


So, what does this mean for us?  The Greek word "agapeo" in 1 John 2:15 is the verb form of the Greek noun "agape" that implies a love based on sacrifice.  When John said "do not love the world" he was saying "do not sacrifice yourself for the world (culture) around you."  That does not mean you cannot engage in, or even enjoy, morally appropriate aspects of your cultural environment.  Understanding that engaging or enjoying are distinctly different from sacrificing, you sacrifice your life to Jesus and His will.  That means you engage yourself as one existing in a distinct cultural community that represents Jesus to the world, just as the Jews returning to their homeland were to do.      


During their captivity, the majority of Jews grew comfortable living in a cultural community that was not their own.  Only a minority sacrificed themselves and embraced the vision to be God's distinct cultural community that would represent Him to the nations.  In today's western-world, the majority of Christians are comfortable living in a cultural community that is not their own.  Only a minority are willing to sacrifice themselves and embrace the vision of becoming Jesus' distinct cultural community that would represent Him to the nations.  May we not be so comfortable in our Babylonian culture that we fail to embrace the vision of being the distinct Community of Christ we are called to be.      


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