I just began reading Jeremy Walker's book Passing Through: A Pilgrim Life in the Wilderness. Lately, I have thought a lot about what it means to be stranger and alien here on earth. Sometimes, when things are going well, it's easy to take more comfort from our earthly home than remembering that this is not our eternal home.
In the opening chapter, Walker defines what the world is, pointing out that the Bible describes it in a creative sense, an extensive sense, i.e., the human inhabitants on earth, and the ethical sense. Later in the chapter, he describes three flawed ways of how we relate to the world.
First, isolation, whereby we ignore the world, and cloister ourselves from its effects. He points out that this creates an "us and them" mentality, and breeds pride. He reminds us that John 17 shows that Jesus did not pray for us to live in this way.
Secondly, there is inattention to the world. He describes this as a "disinterested ignorance." This, taken to an extreme, results in a lack of compassion or genuine concern for the lost. God gave man a mandate to have dominion over the world he created; there is no room for disinterest.
Lastly, there is emulation of the world. This is when the church adopts the world's patterns, culture, and priorities. One of the ways I personally see this active in the church is the attitude that the church is a corporation, not a body.
Under such circumstances, the church ceases to be a thermostat that regulates the moral temperature of society and becomes a thermometer that merely registers and reflects that temperature.
He reminds us that all three of these approaches are flawed:
... all of these approaches might be undertaken instinctively, ignorantly, thoughtlessly, or deliberately. But all are flawed in that they fail to take into account the various nuances of relationship demanded by the shades of meaning that lie behind the idea of "the world." Each one, as we have seen, neglects some element of biblical revelation considered as a whole.
I think this topic is timely. We seem to operate in extremes at times. Either we are legalistic in our attitude to the world, or we are too quick to say, "Well, God made it, so it must be good." I think a balance is definitely needed, and only through Scripture can we discern the right attitude toward the world. Walker proposes that we remember our identity as pilgrims in this world, something the Puritans focused on. That is the theme Walker focuses on next.
So far, this is one of the best laid out books I've read. Walker is focused on his topic, and presents his arguments well; a refreshing approach to writing these days.