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by Phil Ware

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I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They are not part of this world any more than I am. Make them pure and holy by teaching them your words of truth. As you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. (John 17:15-18)

    I hate shrink-wrap.

    I know, I know, it makes bundling products easier for merchants and supposedly protects the goodies inside for the consumer who buys the products. But, it also allows merchants to restock items that have been tried and returned without the consumers knowing it. In addition, those “industrial strength” shrink-wrapped goods need a chain saw to open. And where are you supposed to cut the plastic and force it apart without damaging the goods inside? And when you finally do get the plastic cut, how are you supposed to keep the jagged edges of the hard plastic from cutting you when you extricate your prized purchase?

    Ouch! It’s hard to keep from cutting yourself. So you hurriedly go to the cabinet to get an adhesive bandage to curb the bleeding only to discover that they are in a nice new box that is shrink-wrapped and each bandage is individually packed in adhesively sealed wraps of plastic. So you reach for the non-sting spray medicine only to discover that it has a shrink-wrapped ring on the top because it hasn’t been opened! (Thank goodness for toilet paper and running water for times like this.) After catching your breath, you pour yourself a glass of water, then reach for pain medicine and what do you discover? Yep, it’s not only shrink-wrapped, but it has a protective shrink-wrapped ring to seal the “kid friendly” cap under which is a vacuum-sealed cover.

    I hate the whole shrink-wrap process and mindset!

    Thankfully, Christians aren’t shrink-wrapped to keep us looking new and pristine while we’re on display. At least we’re not supposed to be. When we come to the Lord and confess our faith in him and are baptized, he doesn’t suddenly put us in some holy plastic cocoon to safeguard our holiness till the day he returns. He calls us to live in the grit of the real world of sin, sorrow, pain, and death just like he did. We’re not to try to build a wall of protection around ourselves to ward off evil influence, but instead are called to be the salt of life that involves itself, permeates, and then preserves the decaying culture around us. We’re to be open and accessible to those around us, living as family with each other and living with compassion and character with those outside our Christian family.

Jesus is the living proof that holiness is meant for the real world.
    Having a shrink-wrapped coating of plastic armor might keep us looking more holy and nice, but God didn’t make us to sit on the church shelf, all neat and tidy, glistening in the light of our stained glass ghettos. Instead, he sent us into the world to share the love of Jesus and the good news of his salvation. Holiness that isn’t lived out in the rough and tumble of the real world doesn’t offer the lost souls of our world much of an opportunity to know the heart of God and to be touched by his immeasurable grace. Jesus is the living proof that holiness is meant for the real world.

    So why are we so afraid to take the shrink-wrap off and reach out to the world around us? Are we afraid that we can’t be in the world without being tainted by it? Jesus sent us into that real world because in its darkness, there is no genuine light of hope without his people reflecting his glory.

    So, the next time you get something new at the store and have to dig out the knife, the scissors, or the chain saw to get off that stinking shrink-wrap, let the Spirit remind you of how withdrawn, isolated, and holier-than-thou Christians look to people in the world who are looking for hope and light and grace. Let it be a reminder that Jesus sends us out to touch the world’s brokenness so that the world can know the One who was battered, scarred, and bruised to redeem it. Let God remind you that grace isn’t really grace until it is both received and shared in the real world of grit and grime of daily life.

“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it useful again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the light of the world-like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:13-16)

 
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      Title: ""
      Author: Phil Ware
      Publication Date: April 7, 2003


 
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