What It Takes to Keep Separate from the World
Without a doubt, our appreciating just how wicked and corrupt Satan’s world is will help us to keep separate from the world. Such appreciation will make it easy for us to obey the command found at Psalm 97:10: “O you lovers of Jehovah, hate what is bad.” No matter how pleasant, how enticing, wicked things are to the fallen flesh, we must abhor them, even as the apostle commands. (Rom. 12:9) More than that, we want to hate those who willfully show themselves haters of Jehovah, haters of what is good. As David of old expressed it: “Do I not hate those who are intensely hating you, O Jehovah, and do I not feel a loathing for those revolting against you? With a complete hatred I do hate them. They have become to me real enemies.” (Ps. 139:21, 22) We hate them, not in the sense of wanting to do them harm or wishing them harm but in the sense of avoiding them as we would poison or a poisonous snake, for they can poison us spiritually. That is why we are warned: “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.”—1 Cor. 15:33.
And let it be noted that this staying clean from wicked persons applies not just to persons whom we may happen to meet or be thrown together with in our everyday affairs of life but also to those whom we choose as associates when it comes to entertainment. Remember, we are commanded: “Let fornication and uncleanness of every sort or greediness not even be mentioned among you, just as it befits holy people; neither shameful conduct.” (Eph. 5:3, 4) This means that we not only avoid making such things the subject of our own conversations but also do not let such things be mentioned in our presence, as by watching a TV program or attending a motion picture where such things are the subject of conversation. Instead, let us make it a point to cultivate associations with fully devoted fellow believers, not only at the congregation and in the field activities but also socially. Yes, to keep separate from the world we must watch our associations; on the one hand, avoiding bad ones and, on the other hand, being diligent to associate with those who, like us, are no part of the world.
FAITH AND COURAGE NEEDED
To keep separate from the world also takes faith and courage. To build up our faith we must cultivate a healthy spiritual appetite, being conscious of our spiritual need at all times. (Matt. 5:3) That includes both making personal Bible study a habit and regularly attending Christian meetings. This is an area in which many of Jehovah’s people come short. Every one of us should regularly set aside time for personal Bible study. If need be, get up a half hour earlier. Many do, so as to be able to engage in such study. We want to have the appreciation of God’s Word that the psalmist did when he exclaimed: “How I do love your law! All day long it is my concern. I am exulting over your saying just as one does when finding much spoil.”—Ps. 119:97, 162.
The role that strong faith plays in our keeping separate from the world can be seen from the example of faithful men of old. At Hebrews chapter 11 we read of these that “the world was not worthy of them.” They had set their hopes on God’s kingdom and so ‘saw these things afar off and welcomed them and realized that they were aliens, strangers, temporary residents’ as far as this world was concerned.
Courageously going from house to house with the good news of God’s kingdom is not only a demonstration of our faith, serving to strengthen it, but is a great help in our keeping separate from the world. It impresses on our minds what a great gulf exists between those of the world and Christians; and as we note the apathy, indifference, prejudice and outright opposition of many of those whom we meet, we are helped to resist worldly temptations. The same also applies to informal witnessing. Because of doing this, former hippies seldom have any difficulty breaking off from old associates; these stay away because they do not want their former companions to preach to them.
FAITHFULNESS IN LITTLE THINGS
To keep separate from the world also requires being faithful in little things. As Jesus said: “The person faithful in what is least is faithful also in much, and the person unrighteous in what is least is unrighteous also in much.” (Luke 16:10) If we are careful not to follow the world, not to be influenced by it in little things, such as in provocative dress and grooming, in dishonest money matters, in cheating on taxes, in sluggish work habits, or in taking needless risks, in careless conduct between the sexes—all these things will keep us from transgressing God’s laws in more serious matters.
Illustrating this principle are the four Hebrews that were taken captive to Babylon, as recorded in the book of Daniel. Because of proving faithful in the seemingly little matter of food, they were able to come off victorious in matters of life and death, involving the issue of whether to obey God or men.—Dan. 1:1-17; 3:1-30; 6:4-23.
HUMILITY AND SELF-CONTROL
Humility is another quality that will greatly aid us in keeping separate from the world. This means having a lowly opinion of ourselves, never thinking more of ourselves than it is necessary to think. (Rom. 12:3) Those who think too highly of themselves are easy targets for the flatterers of this world. It might be said that Satan used a flattering argument to deceive Eve. (Gen. 3:1-7) Being humble will help us to be content with our blessings spiritually and materially. If we have godly devotion and self-sufficiency, as we are urged to have at 1 Timothy 6:6, we will not restlessly be craving forbidden pleasures, excitement or thrills in watching violence on the screen; we will not be tempted to be dishonest in our relations with others, or to become greedy of selfish gain. Having a lowly opinion of ourselves, we will be content with our mates and will not be casting longing eyes toward others who might seem to be offering more glamour, pleasure or companionship.
To keep separate from the world also takes self-control. Self-control will enable us to endure pain so as not to compromise under severe persecution, as we at all times look to Jehovah God for needed strength. The same is true when it comes to temptations that Satan’s world or circumstances put in our way, that is, temptations to yield to the works of the flesh. (Gal. 5:19-21) If we have cultivated the fruitage of self-control, we will be able to resist all such temptations, doing as the apostle Paul did: “I pummel my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.”—1 Cor. 9:27.
FEAR OF JEHOVAH AND UNSELFISH LOVE
To keep separate from the world also requires the fear of Jehovah, which is the beginning of wisdom. (Ps. 111:10) The godly fear of displeasing our heavenly Father will keep us separate from the wicked world. The world is very bad, and the fear of Jehovah means the hating of bad.
But above all, it takes unselfish love to keep separate from the world. The world appeals to selfishness. To the extent that we are unselfish, to that extent the world’s temptations will have no attraction for us. If we truly love Jehovah God with all our heart and soul, with all our mind and strength, we will be loyal to him and so will not consort with his enemies. We will not prove unfaithful to him. And if we love our Christian brothers, we will keep separate from the world, for failure to do so may stumble them, because of our setting a bad example. If we love our own families, we will keep away from all worldly enticements that may tempt us to be disloyal to them in thought, word and deed.
REWARDS FOR STAYING SEPARATE
What are the rewards for keeping separate from the world? For one thing, we can enjoy the pure friendship of Jehovah God, Jesus Christ and our Christian brothers. Furthermore, by keeping separate from the world, we will maintain clean consciences and avoid the bad fruits that result from the works of the flesh. (Gal. 6:7, 8) By keeping separate from Babylon the Great, we will not share in her guilt nor receive her plagues.—Rev. 18:4.
Keeping separate from the political nations also has its rewards. While it frequently has resulted in true Christians’ suffering hardships, yet time and again keeping separate from nationalistic conflicts has also worked to their advantage. In such strife-torn lands as Lebanon and northern Ireland, their neutral stand has enabled them to move about freely in their witness work and has even saved their lives.
And by keeping separate from the world we will be able, with benefit to ourselves, to heed the command found at Zephaniah 2:3: “Seek Jehovah, all you meek ones of the earth, who have practiced His own judicial decision. Seek righteousness, seek meekness. Probably you may be concealed in the day of Jehovah’s anger.” Thus we may go through the “great tribulation” to enjoy everlasting life in God’s new order.—Matt. 24:21; 2 Pet. 3:13.
So may all truly dedicated Christians ever bear in mind the need for them to keep separate from the world dominated by Satan the Devil. May they always appreciate the many reasons why they should do so. And may they be diligent in cultivating the qualities needed to keep separate from the world.
As shown in the following articles designed for study, we are profoundly affected by our attitude regarding this world. Indeed, ‘we reap what we sow.’
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HATE AND SHUN THE BAD
BUILD STRONG FAITH IN GOD