“To love the world with a view to participation in its pleasures and purposes is to walk away from God, but to love the world with a view to its redemption from its pleasures and purposes is to walk with God” (Riggans 1983, p 190). This comment is made in relation to the passage in Numbers 25:1-5 where Israel began to follow the practices of the Moabites instead of following and serving God. Riggans quotes I John 2:15 before this but he could equally have quoted Romans 12:1-2. The John passage talks of loving the world as meaning that we don't love God while the Romans passage talks of not conforming to the world but instead being transformed by the love of God.
As I reflect, I realise just how much we have “conformed to the world.” We accept its financial systems and structures, and enjoy the products of prosperity. Although we might intellectually acknowledge God's economy as a gift economy, we struggle to see how it could operate within a society focussed on personal gain and status. Our conforming has meant that we now struggle to see how God really would like our relationships and interactions to work.
The Romans 12 passage with its emphasis on renewal of the mind seems extremely relevant in this context. Without changing the way that we think about life and living, we will struggle to live as God intended and to be the salt and God's method for redemption of the world.
I realise that our world is so focused on personal gain that it couldn't accept a gift of someone's service without feeling that it needed to pay them. If I was to offer to teach in a university without negotiating a salary package, the offer would be rejected. It would also be difficult to develop software for an organisation. However, if I placed what I developed on the market for free, there might be individual takers and some corporate takers. The overall emphasis is on having to pay rather than focusing on how to fulfil the needs of those around us.
If Christians opt out of society, this puts barriers up for being God's method of redemption. In effect, we want to participate but in a way that challenges current practices. Our participation needs to be nonconformist. I no longer think in terms of giving money. Rather I am thinking of giving goods and services. I seek to destroy the dependence on financial currency and accounting. Can we free resources to heal relationships through removing the aspect of accounting for their cost?
Riggans, W. (1983). Numbers. Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press.