1. God's Word addresses bluntly and directly the question of the Christian's relationship with the world ( Greek: kosmos ).
a. 1 John 2:15
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
b. James 4:4
Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
c. James 1:27
Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
2. Of course Christians are also called to live in the world to the glory of God, and this entails keeping company with those who stand outside the kingdom of God.
a. Matthew 5:13-16 [ NIV ]
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither to people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
b. 1 Corinthians 5:9-10 [ TLB ]
When I wrote to you before I said not to mix with evil people. But when I said that I wasn't talking about unbelievers who live in sexual sin, or are greedy cheats and thieves and idol worshipers. For you can't live in this world without being with people like that.
c. Mark 16:15
And [ Jesus ] said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature."
2. It has been left to individual Christians to decide for themselves how best to arrange their lives within this dichotomy. How does one best live in the world and at the same be separated from it? How can one be involved in the world without loving it or conforming to it? Is it possible to "use" the world for the glory of God without becoming sullied with its residue?
a. Some would emphasize the "separation" side of the dilemma, a choice which can (and often does) progress ultimately toward stern legalism.
(1) First ( correctly ), they call believers to separation from s __ __.
(2) Next might come the call to separation from specific p __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __. Often these practices are not directly condemned by Scripture, but are deemed "dangerous" by those who have taken it upon themselves to define certain doctrinal / behavioural standards as "good" or "bad."
(3) In far too many cases there is finally issued a call for "good" Christians to be separated from s __ __ __ __ __ __. A "wise" Christian, the argument goes, will have as little as possible to do with non-Christians. This results in small groups of "separated" believers living in "gospel ghettos," carefully and deliberately walled off from the evil world. Sad to say, many churches have chosen this course, rendering themselves unable to do an important part of the work to which Christ has called His church.
b. On the other hand, there are many Christians who take the opposite tack. Convinced that such radical isolationism is a distortion of Christ's call to His disciples, they move in the direction of more fully developed involvement and inclusion. But many of these believers are so determined to associate with non-Christians that they move toward an equally precarious extreme: a __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __. Too often, associating with sinners has led to associating with and even indulging in their sin. Among the unfortunate outcomes in this case is the loss of Christian distinctiveness.
3. "The question remains: What is biblical separation? The answer is not to be found in either of the extremes. Isolation, external separation, is no more biblical than assimilation. We are not to be chameleons, conforming to our environment, but neither are we to be hermits, sealed off from the world of men. We can only resolve the question by setting aside our preconceived ideas and listening carefully to the Word of God.
We can learn a great deal about biblical separation by carefully investigating the life of Samson. Unfortunately, not all the lessons of his life are positive ones. Samson was largely a failure; yet the failures of his life are very instructional. He was not an especially attractive figure, but he was a significant one, and more scriptural space is give to his life than that of any other judge. Almost everything about the man was unique; that was especially true of his birth and calling by God." - Gary Inrig: Hearts of Iron, Feet of Clay