Let's be reasonable with one another, shall we?

Monday, October 24, 2005

What is “Worldliness”? Holidays, part 1

I really want to know what others think about this.

When I first became a follower of God’s Word, the people that influenced me personally took separation from certain worldly things to an unreasonable extreme sometimes.

  • Drinking and carousing was “worldly”. (I understood that one easily.)
  • However, smoking wasn’t “worldly” because it wasn’t mind-altering. (?)
  • Christmas was wrong and “worldly” because Christ wouldn’t want us to celebrate His birth, the important thing was His death. Besides, the celebrations were laden with pagan customs.
  • Even going to church on Sunday was “worldly” because that is what the “world” says religious people are supposed to do. “We should go to church on another day just so we don’t do it the ‘worldly religious’ people’s way.” (I saw the flaw in that thinking back then just as clearly as I do now.)

There were various parts of American life that were called out as wrong and “worldly”. Christians should stay away from these at all costs! At the time, I didn’t disagree with my somewhat dominating leader and I didn’t argue about it. I really didn’t think this view was all that reasonable, though, but most of the things in question didn’t really seem to have much value to me … they weren’t worth fighting over.

Then I left the people that had been such a big part of my life for my first five years as a Christian and I married John. (That is another story.) John and I were similar in our views about some of this. For example, in our very first home, we rebelled against the Christmas tree. We would not get one. We kind of chuckled as we acted this out, but we thought, “why do we have to go along with what the whole “world” is doing? Besides, Jesus wasn’t really even born in December.” (This thought remained for me: why celebrate His birth with such emphasis? … the important thing was His death.) John got an ornament of a blimp given to him at work and we hung it on our house plant “the jade tree” and laughed. We still loved all the pure, spiritual things that were associated with Christmas (many of the songs, the truth of God incarnate, the gathering of the church…) but we just decided the Holiday was “worldly” and therefore not a good thing to embrace.

Then came children. Our minds changed about Christmas and its trimmings. (Here’s a little background: neither of us grew up in a home that was “all about the Bible” or finding truth. There were religious/traditional celebrations. Both of us thought of Christmas and the family togetherness as a bright spot in our childhood.) We didn’t see the sense in not sharing these special American traditions with our own kids. Our singleness had allowed us to proudly separate from all things traditional, but having a family changes things. We had read of all the Druid/pagan practices/origins, but we weren’t going to be worshiping their gods. We certainly weren’t going to bow down and worship a Christmas tree! Even though these things associated with American Christmas have been questionable in the past, they were now simply “traditions”. It became clear to both of us, as we searched out the important “heart of the matter”, that Christmas for us is, at worst, a wonderful family-oriented traditional American celebration which is not bad, but good for familes and communities if conducted well. Why keep this from our children? It is good and positive, if dealt with rightly. It is the stuff of memories … and it is fun … and that is OK.

Of course, the wonderful fact of the hypostatic union should be talked about, and appreciated, throughout the year ... as should His death and resurrection. Furthermore, if we focus on Christ in a special way at Christmas, then it becomes more to us than simply an American tradition, but a wonderful, doxological time of the year and that cannot be bad.

Finally, what is “worldliness”? I would like input on this, as I have been pondering the definition of that word. (John 15:19 “you are not of this world.” …. Romans 12:2 “being not conformed to this world” come to mind, any other suggestions for defining “worldliness”)

  • (Is a holiday “worldly” because of the secular-ness of it?)
  • (Is a holiday “worldly” because of the pagan base of many of its customs?)
  • (If it is "worldy" in either of these senses, does that mean Christians cannot rightly participate without dishonoring God's glory?)

21 Comments:

  • I am a Catholic and practice my faith everyday. I try to live everyday as God would want me to live. Everything in this world is worldly. If it was not made by God I believe it to be worldly. Focusing our attention to this the things of the world, or putting people or things above God is wrong. Yes, I celebrate Christmas because I believe Christs birth is a very important part of his life. I don't give extravagant gifts because that is not the point of Christmas. I do give to charities in my families name. It is a time to remember that God sent us his only son to show us the way and the truth. No that is not the day that Christ was actually born, but the fact is that we do celebrate his birth. I believe when I meet my Creator, God is not going to judge me for celebrating his Son's birth. If anything God should be happy. As long as I do my best and treat everyone person as my brother and sister no matter what nationality, then hopefully I am doing God's will.

    By Blogger Dana, at 10/24/2005 1:01 AM  

  • Hi Dana,
    I grew up Catholic, so let me say: this subject really isn't relevant in the Catholic culture. Thanks for stopping by, though ... I hope you can read some of my other posts.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/24/2005 6:48 AM  

  • rose~,

    Christ, the Redeemer, is with His saints where ever they go and what ever they do. As His people shine as lights as living expressions of Him, then He redeems those traditions.

    I encourage christians to take advantage of the Christmas season, when people are closer than usual in their ponderings of Christ to write and leave special tracts for the season proclaiming the whole story of Christ. Keep on redeeming the time!

    Remember: If you can't find it in the Bible then it ain't wrong no matter what some indy-fundy legalistic preacher says.

    I wish I could type like you--

    "Two Fingers and a Key-board" :-)

    By Blogger bluecollar, at 10/24/2005 7:21 AM  

  • I find the Pagan character of Christmas really disturbing. My parents put up a Christmas tree, but it really makes me nervous.

    As for the Bible. It does mention decorating trees in Jeremiah 10.
    The Bible contains plenty of teaching about the Jewish festivals. If God thought the Church needed one, He would have ordained one. We need to base our worship on what God has revealed in the Scriptures.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 10/24/2005 9:04 AM  

  • Bluecollar:
    Thanks for your thoughts. I kind of lean that way, obviously.

    Dyspraxic:
    I had heard of the Jeremiah passage also as a reference to Christmas trees, but then someone pointed out to me that it is talking about the making of a silver/gold plated idol and the main point of the passage was that the idol has no life.
    I totally agree about basing worship on what the Bible says, but I am not really asking about worship in the Jewish festival sense of the word. I am asking about every day American life and its yearly/daily activities. Thanks for your comment - always appreciated.

    EVERY READER:
    My question isn't really about CHRISTMAS, it is about holidays in general, but even more basically, it is about "worldliness" and what that means. Got any more ideas or thoughts?

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/24/2005 9:29 AM  

  • Well, you could look at worldliness in terms of what not to do- I produced a list of 'Thou Shalt Nots' which can be found in the August archive of my blog. I think we need to look at aspects of modern life and evaluate them according to Biblical principles. We need to be careful about judging each other over matters which are not clear from Scripture. I reject Christmas, but I would not want to judge the spiritual state of a Christian who celebrates Christmas.

    The difficult question is balancing the time one spends on spiritual things and secular things. I guess we need to seek to be lead by the Holy Spirit in thsi area. But perhaps if we spend too much time on secular pleasures, it may get harder to discern the Spirit's leading. Difficult one.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 10/24/2005 10:47 AM  

  • Worldliness: Some Christians drink beer, some can go to bars in order to witness, some have long hair others short. Some of Christ's mightiest servants smoked cigars(Spurgeon)others drank beer(Luther)or Bourbon.

    In this hyper judgmental christiandom who can say what is right or wrong without Biblical suport, and yet that is what many set out to do with all these man made do's and don'ts.

    The Epistles are full of instructions in righteousness (2Timothy 3:16-17)-let us study them and be dependent on God's Spirit for the strength to live them out in our desire to glorify Christ.

    Too many preachers in the late 19th century and early 20th departed from sound exegetical exposition of the word and took up teaching man made traditions instead--WHAT A DIVERSION!A clever work of the devil I might add. Now the saints,thanks to that diversion have a body of thought by which we can sit and judge one another, all instead of using the time to explore what the Bible really has to say.

    For the record: I will have a beer if offered,( I know my drinking limmits),my wife and I put up a 6foot tree every Christmass, I lift weights between my house and the gym, I've worn long and short hair... All of these things would be counted "worldly" by some yet my coscience is clear in all these matters.To those who would call me worldly I would respond by asking them to show me chapter and verse!!!!

    By Blogger bluecollar, at 10/24/2005 10:56 AM  

  • I ask those who are expert in indy-fundy legalism:How much time do we spend pondering Jesus' command to "love our enemies" or to"bless those who curse you"or to "do good to those who hate you" or,"pray for those who persecute you"? How much time do husbands spend meditating on the command for husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church? How much time do wives spend meditating on the command that they should obey their husbands as the Lord? How much effort do we put into obeying the laws of the land? How much time do we spend praying for those in authority? How much time do we spend raising our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?

    I'd say these and many other things IN THE SCRIPTURES should keep us quite busy, thank you.

    By Blogger bluecollar, at 10/24/2005 12:30 PM  

  • Bluecollar, you make some good points. We need to recognise that the basis of God's Law is love.

    Those of us who have strong opinions on matters such as dress, hairlength and celebrating Christmas need to be careful not to impose our convictions on others.

    However, that does not mean that it is not right to recognise that some things that we do have spiritual implications. I believe the principles of the New Testament do have implications for hairlength and celebrating Christmas.

    You have a Bible. You decide whether what you do or wear is appropriate and pleasing to God.
    It only becoems a matter for Church discipline when a person is involved in some activity that is umambiguosly sinful.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 10/24/2005 12:39 PM  

  • Bluecollar, I have two questions for you:
    1. What is an "indy-fundy"?
    2. Shouldn't you be at the factory right now? (jj)

    I appreciate the thoughts both of you have contributed already, but I am still not getting the discussion about "worldliness" and what it is.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/24/2005 12:57 PM  

  • By the way, I don't even talk to my original "discipler" anymore. (He didn't like me anymore after I married John.) No one I know right now is trying to tell me what to do about holidays. That is not why I am trying to get a grip on this. I am not threatened by the opinions of others, generally. I just thought maybe a few Christians could reason through it together.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/24/2005 1:01 PM  

  • hmm... very thought provoking... you bring up some good points that I'll be reflecting on thanks to this blog!

    By Blogger Nunzia, at 10/24/2005 2:34 PM  

  • Rose you seem to have struck a chord with a couple of your fans!!

    Lots of opinions flying around here ... what about taking a look at some Scripture?

    Consider the following verses that speak of how a Christian should interact with the world.

    Matt 5.10-16 - Be light in a dark world. That meann we cannot hide in our Christian homes and churches, but it also has to mean that we must be very different than the world in which we live. Light looks nothing like darkness. This deals with more than simply motive (i.e. "to the glory of God") but with actual identity.

    2 Cor 6.14-7.1. God expects a clear difference in the lifestyle of one who is identified with him over against one who is identified with the world. Again, this is not simply dealing with the motives our hearts (which are important, mind you) but with how we are identified and categorized.

    1 Peter 1.13-16. We are cllaed to be holy. We are never given permission to compromise our own holiness/separateness for a "greater good" (namely evangelism).

    1 Peter 2.11-12. We are called to live our lives in such a way that people see us and do not in anyway, identify us with the the world, but rather immediately glorify our Father.

    The application of these truths in specific situations will vary of course. But the core Truth is that Christian must stand out in a fallen world, striving for holiness, not identifing with the pagan world.

    Thoughts? Other Scriptures?

    By Blogger Reformer, at 10/24/2005 2:42 PM  

  • I think a lot of the holidays have become worldy, i.e. commercialized, but I don't think they are inherently so. Despite the origins, the idea was to celebrate Christ's birth.

    By Blogger Nettie, at 10/24/2005 2:56 PM  

  • Reformer,
    My readers are not "fans"!

    I still don't think you've answered the heart of the question. By "looking different", you could mean a number of things and that could be interpreted a number of ways. e.g.: Amish. Should we do as the Amish do? Should we not use telephones because they are "of the world?" And on and on...

    Should we not record music and buy CDs because it is a worldly practice? What about following sports?

    Who decides what is too worldly for Christians?

    Me thinks it has something to do with ... "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life" ... and not so much with appearance ... as you are saying. But I am still thinking about it.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/24/2005 4:57 PM  

  • Thanks for coming over, Nettie.

    I look at Christmas mostly as a non-religious tradition, but try to take advantage of the opportunities it presents for talking about the Messiah.
    I love Christmas whatever it is!

    But I really hate Santa Claus! I refuse to tell my kids that he is anything but a legend. I will not lie to my kids about a jolly old elf. This presents a problem with cousins and at school - my kids tell everyone else's kids that he is not real. :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/24/2005 10:23 PM  

  • I think that the answer to the question of worldliness is in Romans chapters 12-14. If you read all of that you can make your decisions based on what paul said about the things of this world, and also dealing with other christians and what they are doing.

    By Blogger Dorothy, at 10/24/2005 10:39 PM  

  • Rose,
    I'm back from "factory" now, I work second shift. To answer your question, "Indy Fundy" is short hand for Independent Fundamentalist. Their favoite motto is, "Get 'em saved then get 'em shaved." I'm going into hibernation now to work on my blog. See ya in a few days!!

    By Blogger bluecollar, at 10/25/2005 12:06 AM  

  • Nunzia,
    Thanks for visiting!

    Nettie,
    Pithy - I like that. I see your point too.

    Dorothy,
    Thanks for your comment. I will read those chapters also - to see how they relate to my question.

    Blue collar,
    Thanks for the enlightenment as to what you mean by that. I'm a little thrown off by it, though, because I think I am an "indy fundy", but I don't subscribe to those things you said "they" do. Oh - maybe you're just kiddin.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 10/25/2005 1:02 PM  

  • Hi Rose,

    I do have some thoughts on Christmas. Who said Christians are not supposed to celebrate it?

    "Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.
    "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."

    (Luke 2:10-11)

    The way I see it, the fact that Jesus was born on this day is to be celebrated by everyone. Isn't that what the angel said?

    But, oh! Those terrible backsliders who want to spend time with their families! Who want to think on whatever is noble, just, pure, lovely and of a good report! And if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy -- they actually meditate on those things!

    I guess those poor backsliders don't have the fruit of the spirit, like those guys with the martyr complex! Done't they know that 'Santa' is 'Satan' spelled sideways?

    :o(

    By Blogger loren, at 10/25/2005 10:57 PM  

  • The birth of Christ was the beginning of His saving work. This was completed at the Resurrection. We celebrate the accomplishment of redemption on the Lord's Day.

    Did the early Church celebrate Christmas (and I do not mean the apostate Church Fathers)? I fthey did not, why do we need to celebrate this ambigious holiday?

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 10/26/2005 3:35 AM  

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