Believers are placed in the world to be salt and light, making a positive impact on the culture without being consumed by it. There are dangers to be avoided and a balance to be struck.
Today’s reading: Jeremiah 29-30; Titus 1
7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. Jeremiah 29:7
5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— Titus 1:5
In God’s providence, exiles from Jerusalem were present in ancient Babylon and, several centuries later, Titus was assigned by Paul to minister on the island of Crete. These assignments were not by chance but by God’s will and they were for a purpose.
While it is true that the Jews were sent into exile under the disciplinary action of God upon the kingdom of Judah, life for those exiles was not put on hold as if it were meaningless or purposeless. They were not coming back to Jerusalem soon. The elderly among them would not live to see Jerusalem. The captivity would last seventy years. False prophets told them to expect a quick return to their native land. Jeremiah, by God’s revelation, commanded them to settle down, plant gardens, buy houses, have children, and seek the welfare of their land of captivity. In other words, do the regular activities of normal life and be good citizens as much as possible. Indeed, Daniel exemplified this attitude and was a great asset to Babylon in both his personal life and public service. We’ll look at this soon when we get to the book of Daniel.
Paul wrote his letter to Titus whom he had left on Crete to organize the church under godly leadership. The Cretans had a bad reputation in general, so it would be crucial that Titus adhere to the apostolic standards for elders so that the church would not be tarnished by scandal. The church in Crete had to have men above reproach to be their elders. They, like the obedient exiles in Babylon, would stand against the culture of their day and make a difference.
There is an ongoing debate among Bible believing Christians about the role of the Church in society—whether to transform it or flee from it. Both positions have a basis in the Scriptures. It is hard to be completely on either side of this debate. We are called to exercise wisdom that the Church be not consumed with changing society and lose the gospel, nor be so separate from the world that the gospel witness is lost.