Those who suffer from addictions and who have been in treatment know P, P & T by heart. That is, you have to change people, places, and things in order to obtain and maintain abstinence from alcohol and drugs. From what I’ve observed, staying away from places where substances are readily available and throwing away items related to alcohol and drug use are easier than separating from triggering people in one’s life. The people who enable or share in the addiction may be childhood friends, parents, other family members on one or both sides, or a wife or husband or fiancé, or even a son or daughter. Like those coming out of a life of substance abuse, the Israelites in Ezra’s time are being told to “separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the pagan wives” (Ezra 10:11).
Have you ever had to do this? I mean, because you believe in Christ, do you leave the party early before the serious drinking begins; or would you stop hanging around with a best friend because you have been convicted about gossiping, and she has not; or are you willing to prohibit a family member from coming to your house to end the angry outbursts and using God’s name in vain? Have you been accused of being “too heavenly minded to be any earthly good?” Do these things even bother your soul?
How do we find the balance in being a witness to the unsaved versus separating ourselves from them? Especially when you love these people in your life, it may be difficult to keep peace with them without compromising your faith or your purpose in Christ.
Acts 1 gives us a picture of why it is important to separate ourselves from the world. It is here, in community, where Jesus Christ shows up to breathe His Holy Spirit on His followers. They are gathered together, away from the crowds, away from naysayers, and hidden from all who would hinder their love for Christ and for one another. All had left homes, families, children, jobs, prestige, and more to look foolish in the world’s eye. Yet here were a mere 120 followers of Christ who would change the world.
Can I leave all to follow Christ?
I would like to think so, and I have demonstrated an ability to avoid entanglements with people who are anti-Christian. However, I have also noticed that I have envied those same people, and I have thought ill of them; but what is worse is that I have given little thought to evangelizing them.
Maybe the question should be, “Why separate?” Is it just to protect our Christian virtues? Or is it to gain perspective by stepping back and observing rather than judging? We may need to put physical distance between us and those who are not of the fold, yet we are also called to witness to them. Hard to do with your back to them.