Reflection – Sunday 24 January 2021, by by Fr. Henri Nouwen

“Be in the world but not of the world”


Be in the World Without Being of the World” – These words summarize well the way Jesus speaks of the spiritual life. It is a life in which we are totally transformed by the Spirit of Love.

Yet it is a life in which everything seems to remain the same. To live a spiritual life does not mean that we must leave our families, give up our jobs, or change our ways of working; it does not mean that we have to withdraw from social or political activities, or lose interest in literature and art; it does not require severe forms of asceticism or long hours of prayer.

Changes such as these may in fact grow out of our spiritual life, and for some people radical decisions may be necessary.

But the spiritual life can be lived in as many ways as there are people.

What is new is that we have moved from the many things to the kingdom of God.

What is new is that we are set free from the compulsions of our world and have set our hearts on the only necessary thing.

What is new is that we no longer experience the many things, people, and events as endless causes for worry, but begin to experience them as the rich variety of ways in which God makes his presence known to us.

Comment on this Daily Meditation Whilst I completely agree with these sentiments, I also believe that “not being of the world” implies somehow not participating in the values of the world.

I do not mean this in a moralistic sense (gosh, don’t we just have enough of that finger-pointing already).

What I mean is that Christ-Followers have a different set of values.

We value loving actions. (God is love – 1 John 4:16).

We value justice for the poor, oppressed and marginalised. (The OT prophets call us to Covenant relationships eg. Amos 5:24).

We value diversity of people and creed. (The Body of Christ, expressed in differentiated ‘spiritual gifts’ eg 1 Corinthians 12:27.)

We value people above dogma. (Tithing mint vs compassion for people Matthew 23:23).

We value spirit over legalism. (Like dragging your donkey out of a well on the Sabbath cf. Luke 14:5).

We value peace; as we follow the Prince of Peace (cf. Isaiah 9:6)

We value people over money; “some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (cf. 1 Timothy 6:10)

Kingdom values are quite unlike worldly values.


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