Worldliness: Hemlines or Helping Outsiders?

Somali brothers rebuilding their shop that was burned down in South Africa

Romans 12:1 “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world…”

“Worldliness” brings to mind junior-high lectures about the proper length for skirts, throwing out CD’s with bad words, and saying no to smoking. I was pretty good at following all those rules, so I used to gloss over those verses thinking, “Check, Got that one.” But I think I missed the definition of worldliness. Worldliness does not just have to do with trashy media and poor morals. It has to do with anything the world does that doesn’t fall in line with the heart of God.

Our church is reading through the chronological Bible, and we are in Amos this week. This prophet is not complaining that people forgetting to do sacrifices–he is complaining that the people are exploiting the poor and not taking care of the widows and the foreigners (all things which God commanded in his law).

“You trample the poor,
stealing their grain through taxes and unfair rent….
You oppress good people by taking bribes
 and deprive the poor of justice in the courts…” (Amos 5:11-12)

I read an article this morning about the way Somali refugees (along with other North African refugees) are treated in South Africa. (Read it here). Many of them come to South Africa to save their families lives from war in the north, but are often the object of harassment, looting and violence. South Africans are afraid that the foreigners will steal their jobs, and so exploit and oppress them. This is not welcoming the foreigner or the outcast.

But don’t we do the same, even in America? Whether it’s excluding the annoying person from the conversation, or being prejudiced against the immigrants to America, our world says, “Exclude the outsider and the poor. Every man for himself. You’ve got to fight to survive, put yourself ahead of everyone else, or you won’t get anything. Maybe it doesn’t always result in burning someone’s house down, like it has in South Africa. But it’s the same spirit. Our world lives in fear. If we buy into that way of thinking, we are living like the world. God doesn’t want us to just show up on Sunday in modest clothes and sing praise songs instead of trashy music. He wants much more than that. He says:

Away with your noisy hymns of praise!
 I will not listen to the music of your harps.
 Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice,
 an endless river of righteous living.(Amos 5:23-24)

So maybe not being conformed to the pattern of this world relates to more than following rules about what kind of music I listen to and my hemline. It has to do with thinking about strangers, outsiders and visitors in a way that is contrary to my culture.

  • PRAY with me that South Africans will not live in fear, but break free from worldly ways of thinking and embrace strangers and foreigners. Pray that the churches will rise up at this time and become known as places where outsiders are safe and welcomed.Statistics show that South Africa has one of the highest populations of Christians in Africa. Pray that we will live like it.
  • PRAY that the ministry of iThemba will help reconcile not only the different races within South Africa, but also all South Africans with those who are foreign.
  • PRAY that worldly ways of thinking and living in fear in my life (and in yours!) will be rooted out by the Spirit of God, and we all would be known as people who love justice, and welcome outsiders and strangers.
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