What is “Worldliness”? Holidays, part 1
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?)