The Christianity surrounding me has been reduced to the negative (don’t do this, don’t do that). Now of course there’s plenty of room for such thinking (prevent the world leaving its dirty smudge on you) but, generally speaking, the Bible never prohibits a certain action without encouraging a more positive one, as Ben Morton put it in his post about swearing and the tongue:
In scripture an instruction not to do something is generally part of the understanding that there is a good that should be done and an evil that should be avoided. Generally speaking, “you shall not steal” means not only that you ought not to behave like a thief but also that you should give generously and lend without charging interest or even expect any return. You can see it here in Ephesians 4:29: Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
: This is why it’s not enough to prevent the world leaving its dirty smudge on you. That kind of thinking brings you only halfway and you’ll never reach a more whole Christian life (furthermore, you might just end up being a legalist: someone who feels they deserve heaven, based on either the good they’ve done or the bad they haven’t done).
If I could rephrase James 1:27 you might see what I’m getting at: As far as God the father is concerned, pure, unsullied, devotion works like this: prevent the world leaving its dirty smudge on you by visiting orphans and widows in their sorrow.
My generation has suffered from this.
Sanctification, simply put, is becoming more and more like Jesus… and we’ve reduced it to preventing the world leaving its dirty smudge on you.
And, sure, Jesus was without sin… you never will be. At some point you have to get on with it, otherwise you’ll never reach the other side of what Jesus was about: he was also a man on mission. If we stay solely concerned about sin we’ll never reach a fuller way of life: the life of Jesus.
And… we’ll never kill more sin.
I experienced such things in the Philippines (as well as the other times in my life of outreach/mission work); you defeat sin by being on mission. In fact, this has become one of the attractive things for westerners about doing a local outreach/overseas mission trip. (Someone once told me that an outreach was like a detox to get away from it all). What we’ve encountered in doing these trips is this: a temporary experience of God’s design for true Christian living. What we should be doing is this: bringing that missional attitude back home.
And if you can’t do that… maybe it’s time to leave home.