Prof. Josh Overbay – “‘In But Not Of’ Does Not Mean ‘Us vs. Them’”

October 17, 2013

Before His death, Jesus prays the following in John 17:14-19:

“I have given them Your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

We must be in the world, but not of the world. How many times have you heard that phrase? Whether it is employed to explain the proper Christian posture towards culture, the spiritual dangers of the secular workplace, or the manner in which we relate to “non-Christian” friends, it is one of those phrases that is in desperate danger of overuse and misunderstanding. The most abhorrent misunderstanding of this phrase is the one that quickly creates an “us vs. them” mentality. Let me explain:

After graduating from a popular Christian liberal arts school, I did what many theology graduates do: I got a job at Starbucks. Since I was entering into the “secular world,” I expected to encounter individuals without God or truth. What I encountered instead were intelligent, compassionate, and loving human beings. My understanding of “the world” was shattered. Not only did I find that I had much in common with them, I found that we shared the same set of spiritual longings and aspirations. They were just as human as I was, or more importantly, I was just as human as they were.

This “us vs. them” mentality is dangerous. Not only is it a lie that makes us feel superior to our neighbors, it actually makes its believers more “of the world.” It distances them from truth and builds roadblocks to genuine relationships. In essence, it keeps us from loving one another by feeding us the lie that we are somehow better.  


- Prof. Josh Overbay, Assistant Professor of Communication Arts

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