The Bible’s Viewpoint
“No Part of the World”—What Does It Mean?
IN THE fourth century C.E., thousands of professed Christians left behind their possessions, relatives, and way of life to live in isolation in the deserts of Egypt. They became known as anchorites, from the Greek a·na·kho·reʹo, meaning “I withdraw.” One historian describes them as holding themselves aloof from their contemporaries. Anchorites thought that by withdrawing from human society, they were obeying the Christian requirement to be “no part of the world.”—John 15:19.
The Bible does admonish Christians to keep “without spot from the world.” (James 1:27) The Scriptures clearly warn: “Adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4) Does this mean, though, that Christians are expected to become anchorites, withdrawing from others in a literal sense? Should they keep aloof from those who do not share their religious beliefs?
Christians Are Not Antisocial
The concept of being no part of the world is discussed in numerous Bible accounts that highlight the need for Christians to separate themselves from the mass of human society that is alienated from God. (Compare 2 Corinthians 6:14-17; Ephesians 4:18; 2 Peter 2:20.) Hence, true Christians wisely shun attitudes, speech, and conduct that conflict with Jehovah’s righteous ways, such as the world’s avid pursuit of riches, prominence, and excessive indulgence in pleasures. (1 John 2:15-17) They also keep separate from the world by remaining neutral in matters of war and politics.
Jesus Christ said that his disciples would be “no part of the world.” But he also prayed to God: “I request you, not to take them out of the world, but to watch over them because of the wicked one.” (John 17:14-16) Clearly, Jesus did not want his disciples to become antisocial, shunning all contact with non-Christians. Actually, isolation would prevent a Christian from fulfilling his commission to preach and teach “publicly and from house to house.”—Acts 20:20; Matthew 5:16; 1 Corinthians 5:9, 10.
The counsel to remain without spot from the world does not give Christians any basis for considering themselves superior to others. Those who fear Jehovah hate “self-exaltation.” (Proverbs 8:13) Galatians 6:3 states that “if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he is deceiving his own mind.” Those who feel superior deceive themselves because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”—Romans 3:23.
“Speak Injuriously of No One”
In Jesus’ day there were people who disdained all who did not belong to their exclusive religious groups. Among these were the Pharisees. They were well versed in the Mosaic Law as well as in the minutiae of Jewish tradition. (Matthew 15:1, 2; 23:2) They took pride in meticulously following many religious rituals. The Pharisees behaved as if they were superior to others simply because of their intellectual achievements and religious status. They expressed their pious and contemptuous attitude by saying: “This crowd that does not know the Law are accursed people.”—John 7:49.
The Pharisees even had a denigratory term for non-Pharisees. The Hebrew term ʽam ha·ʼaʹrets was originally used in a positive way to designate regular members of society. But in time the arrogant religious leaders of Judah changed the sense of ʽam ha·ʼaʹrets to one of opprobrium. Other groups, including professed Christians, have used terms such as “pagan” and “heathen” in a derogatory way to designate people with religious beliefs different from theirs.
How, though, did the first-century Christians view those who had not embraced Christianity? Jesus’ disciples were admonished to treat unbelievers “with mildness” and “deep respect.” (2 Timothy 2:25; 1 Peter 3:15) The apostle Paul set a good example in this regard. He was approachable, not arrogant. Instead of lifting himself above others, he was humble and upbuilding. (1 Corinthians 9:22, 23) In his inspired letter to Titus, Paul gives the admonition “to speak injuriously of no one, not to be belligerent, to be reasonable, exhibiting all mildness toward all men.”—Titus 3:2.
In the Bible the term “unbeliever” is at times used to designate non-Christians. However, there is no evidence that the word “unbeliever” was used as an official designation or label. Certainly, it was not used to belittle or denigrate non-Christians, as this would be contrary to Bible principles. (Proverbs 24:9) Jehovah’s Witnesses today avoid being harsh or arrogant toward unbelievers. They consider it rude to label non-Witness relatives or neighbors with derogatory terms. They follow Bible counsel, which states: “A slave of the Lord . . . needs to be gentle toward all.”—2 Timothy 2:24.
“Work What Is Good Toward All”
It is vital to recognize the dangers of intimacy with the world, especially with those who show gross disrespect for godly standards. (Compare 1 Corinthians 15:33.) Yet, when the Bible counsels to “work what is good toward all,” the word “all” includes those who do not share Christian beliefs. (Galatians 6:10) Evidently, under some circumstances first-century Christians shared meals with unbelievers. (1 Corinthians 10:27) Hence, today Christians treat unbelievers in a balanced way, viewing them as their fellowmen.—Matthew 22:39.
It would be wrong to assume that a person is indecent or immoral simply because he is not acquainted with Bible truths. Circumstances and people vary. Hence, each Christian must decide to what degree he will regulate his contact with unbelievers. However, it would be unnecessary and unscriptural for a Christian to isolate himself physically as anchorites did or to feel superior as the Pharisees did.