Contact Does Not Equal Contamination

Are Jesus followers to withdraw and separate themselves from culture and the world? This question is often discussed and many struggle with the tension of the thin line between being in the world, but not of the world.

Below Michael Frost shares his view on the North American churches use of resources and about the skewed theological framework around being separate from the world.

One good quote to ponder is, “Missional effectiveness is directly proportional to your relational capacity. If you have high relational capacity with the world — high missional effectiveness. If you have limited relational capacity…you have limited missional effectiveness. ”

Concept to commit to memory: contact does not equal contamination.

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6 Responses to “Contact Does Not Equal Contamination”

  1. What he describes about a church with a salon and a fitness center describes at least one mega-church in the area where I live.

    His point about eating meat offered to idols is excellent.

    A struggle I have as a parent is over the public vs. private school question. I have a hard time justifying exposing my kids to the things they see in public school in the name of “mission.”

  2. Rick Meigs says:

    Hey Adam: We home schooled our boys. I think parents have an obligation to shelter, guide and lead their kids during their formative years. Each parent has to decide on what that will look like in their situation and context. Frost is talking about adult Jesus followers and the tendency to what to isolate themselves from any contact with the “world.”

  3. So often I hear “be in the world, not of the world” as a sort of superior tolerance. In other words, “Until we go to heaven, we have to be here physically, but we aren’t like THEM”. Yet, in understanding Jesus’ words (& example) being in the world and not of it is actually a role of subservience and love. Consider what it means to be salt of the earth. Salt was most often used as a preservation to prevent the decay of meat, as well as to give it flavor. In this way, the analogy is quite telling.

    The salt is essentially and actively present in the world, yet it still remains distinctly other than and different from the world, just as the salt and meat in the curing process- while integrated- represent two distinct parts. After all the kingdom that is breaking through into the world in our lives and by His Spirit is by necessity something altogether new and different from what the world has known before. Here Jesus calls us to live in the difficult but necessary tension between isolation or withdrawal from the world on the one hand and the compromise of our identity, vocation and morality on the other. Withdrawal from the world means abandoning it to the decay of sin, while compromising means we are no different than the world, leaving us just as prone to sins destructive decay.

    All too often, when we as Christians consider being “in the world, but not of the world”, being entirely other and different from the world, we find ourselves tempted to therefore consider ourselves better than the world. While we are called to be something new, Jesus does not allow for this arrogant superiority. In fact, considering the analogy, Jesus clearly places us in a very subservient position. After all, the point of salting meat is to preserve the meat. The salt is essential and much valued to that end, but saving the meat itself is the ultimate end, the salt merely the means. Even then, the salt provides only a delay in the decaying process. In the same way, Jesus is affirming that, while the world is indeed corrupted by sin, it is His priority to preserve it, to extend hope and grace to it. Why? Because He loves all of creation so very much. How? Through His children, His church, His Body. And ultimately, only He can reverse decay and death. While we are more than a mere means to an end for God, Jesus makes it very clear that, should we not remain “salty”, we are of no use to Him. Again, Jesus is linking our identity in Him with His mission of redemption and shalom.

    Just some thoughts.

  4. Rick Meigs says:

    Jamie, Thanks. Love your take and description on the purpose of “salt.” That is worth fleshing out more.

  5. sonja says:

    Jamie!! I still have to read your whole comment, but I’m sitting here taking delight in the phrase, “superior tolerance.” What a perfect description for how so many people seem to use this idea of being in but not of the world and why I’ve grown to hate using it.

    Sorry, I wanted to set aside a comment just for that phrase … it’s so wonderful. Thank you for your gift with words.

  6. Thanks Rick. Actually, this is on my heart & mind because I wrote in much more detail about it in my book.

    Thanks Sonja! I kinda like it too!