By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
– Hebrews 11:8-10
“In the Old Testament, a person’s relationship with God was seen by the degree of separation in that person’s life. This separation is exhibited in the life of Abraham by his separation from his country and his family. When we think of separation today, we do not mean to be literally separated from those family members who do not have a personal relationship with God, but to be separated mentally and morally from their viewpoints. This is what Jesus Christ was referring to in Luke 14:26.
“Living a life of faith means never knowing where you are being led. But it does mean loving and knowing the One who is leading. It is literally a life of faith, not of understanding and reason – a life of knowing Him who calls us to go. Faith is rooted in the knowledge of a Person, and one of the biggest traps we fall into is the belief that if we have faith, God will surely lead us to success in the world.”
– Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
I am going to take two days to write about my nightly dose of Oswald Chambers. He changed gears in the last paragraph of this topic, to come tomorrow.
I contrast my life with that of Abraham, and, other than faith in God, I see one similarity. We had no place of our own. But I see a vast difference in our reasons for moving. Abraham moved because God said to move. I moved due to circumstances. Yet, regardless of the difference in circumstances which led to the moves, God had His hand in where I am today, just as God led Abraham to the promised land.
What has that physical separation meant to my wife and I? We never got free babysitting. We had to take the children with us when we did things. When we brought our sons to Scouting leadership meetings, it encouraged other people to come and bring their kids. The kids had a party while we planned, trained new leaders, or had information sharing sessions.
Having no family nearby took a toll on us. It was financially straining. It was physically draining. But we grew in strength together. We had no parachute. We were on our own. We never called our parents for advice. We just went full-speed ahead, trusting God.
Aside from the physical separation, Chambers speaks of a lack of physical separation with people who do not have a relationship with God. From firsthand experience, that is tough. You need to show God’s love, but sometimes they needle you. They poke the bear. That’s when physical separation may be needed.
Working with unbelievers is difficult and the rules tend to change faster than your ability to keep the rules clear in your mind. What will become an offense? What subjects are the hot buttons to avoid? How do you express your feelings about this or that? With some people, a safe subject of discussion one month may become a violent explosion one month later. If sports seem safe, then you will learn that not all sports are safe. Some people even invent far-fetched excuses to hate each new topic of discussion, anything to avoid the elephant in the room.
The key is to stay in prayer with your Heavenly Father, praying for those people that you must deal with and praying for wisdom on your part.
And understand that it is not easy. It was not easy for Abraham. He had to make friends with unbelievers. He passed his wife off as his sister on two occasions (Abram in Egypt – Genesis 12, Abraham with Abimelech – Genesis 20). She was his half-sister, but he was afraid of his neighbors and knew their reputations.
I have been in many foreign countries. Sometimes, you have to study their customs as to not offend. For example, if you want to see the Jade Buddha in Bangkok, you will have to remove your shoes first. Then you must sit in such a way that your feet do not point toward the Buddha. I have seen an American nearly beaten because he showed disrespect. I stepped in and showed him how to sit as the temple guard was raising his nightstick for the first blow. You don’t have to worship the graven image, but you are showing respect and establishing rapport with those who do. Again, it is not easy.
The entire book of Judges is about a people who lacked leadership, and everyone did as they saw fit, mostly worshipping the gods of their neighbors. Chambers is saying that we must separate ourselves from that, but still show God’s love to those neighbors.
It is not easy, but we have God who can guide us through the Holy Spirit and give us strength.
Praise the Lord.