The life of a Christian young person is not an easy life. A young person is at an age at which he begins to assume more and more responsibility for himself. No longer are parents simply making decisions for you, but you are called upon to make decisions by yourself with your parents’ guidance.
Decisions must be made with respect to one’s everyday activities, about work, schooling, and many other areas of one’s natural life. Decisions must be made regarding one’s spiritual life as well. For many years already you were instructed in catechism, in church, in school, and at home in the fundamental truths of the Word of God. Now more than ever before you are learning to apply these Scriptural truths to your life. Consciously you are becoming more and more aware of the close relationship between what one believes and what one does.
In this connection you realize that your life would not be so difficult if there would be no opposition. But there are opposing forces in this world that try to, make you walk a different path than the one pointed out in the Holy Scriptures. This opposition exists because there are two kinds of people in the world. On the one hand there are the people of the world who hate God and the truth, are children of wrath, and love to walk in sin. On the other hand there are people of God who are the temple of the living God who principally walk in the light.
Spiritually these two people are worlds apart, having nothing in common with each other. Your calling then is to be separate from them. That is the difficult part of your life, to remain separate from those that walk in darkness. But that it is your calling there can be no doubt, for Scripture is very clear on this point.
Through the hypocrite Balaam God said in Numbers 23:9, “For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him: lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.” God says the same thing in Deut. 33:28 where we read, “Israel then shall dwell in safety alone.” And years later the prophet Isaiah spoke the same Word of God in Is. 52:11, “Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord.”
It is sometimes argued that this applied only to Old Testament Israel as a nation. Such argumentation does not present the truth. The apostle Paul in II Cor. 6:17, 18 writes, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” This certainly can mean nothing less than that we too must be separate. God’s ethics do not change, for His people are one people, whether they be manifested in the Old Dispensation or in the New. The apostle John emphasizes this in Rev. 18:4, “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”
The question that now rises in your mind is somewhat like this, “How do I apply this truth to my personal life? What does this mean for me?” This is a good question which deserves consideration since many have answered the question incorrectly. Monks, hermits, the Amish, and the Mennonites interpret this to mean a physical separation. Therefore, they seclude themselves in a monastery, or in an isolated cave, or in a closed commune. What they have tried to establish is their own little kingdom in their own little corner of the globe.
Is this God’s will for us? Is this the meaning of the Scriptural passages quoted above? Should we as Protestant Reformed Churches buy up huge sections of farmland with a Protestant Reformed city as a business center providing jobs for only Protestant Reformed people?
If you would answer “yes,” would that solve your problems as young people? Would such a separation help in any way toward a more godly life? Would such a style of living fulfill the mandate to be separate, to stay away and touch not the unclean thing? The answer is very simple, “No!” Wherever you would go you would take the world with you. By nature it is possible to be separate locally, but spiritually to be one with the world. Physical separation, then, is not the answer.
Let us look at the problem from a different angle. Does the separation of Scripture then mean that we may live as we do now, not physically separated from the world, but that we must abstain from working in certain spheres? Is it possible as a young person to seek the goal of being a Christian politician, or a Christian lawyer, or a Christian artist, or a Christian scientist? Or is this a contradiction in terms? The Anabaptists believe that children of God may not enter into such vocations. They believe that such occupations are in themselves not compatible with a Christian life.
Young people, the separation is a spiritual separation. You stand before your God in a relation of love and covenant friendship. This is true no matter where you are and no matter what you are doing. All things must serve His glory. This is the basic difference between you and the world. You can labor within the same sphere together, but in a God-glorifying manner. Hate sin and love God; flee from the corruptions of the evil world and walk in a new and holy life. You and every child of God must cast off everything that would lead us to apostasy and everything that would imply that we are one with the world spiritually.
You must reveal that you are a different people. You have a God different from those served by the world. You have different goals and ideals. This is revealed in your speech, thinking, reading, and singing. This is also manifested in the amusements that you seek, the friends with which you associate, and in your social life.
Think about this for a moment. So what if you separated yourself from the world physically? Would that make you spiritually better if your mind is still defiled with the dirt of the world? Have you really separated yourself from the world if you take its smut and read it in the privacy of your home? What about the songs that you sing? Are they to God’s glory or are they the suggestive and passionate songs that appeal to your flesh? You see, physical separation does you no good if you carry the world in your heart. You must stand out as children of God recognizing what is unclean and refusing to touch it. In other words, you and I are not called to come out of the earth, but to forsake the kingdom of darkness.
The apostle Paul in II Cor. 6:14 gives a very good illustration of what is meant. He says, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” In the Old Dispensation God expressly forbade the yoking together of an ox and an ass (Deut. 22:10). One might not yoke together in this fashion a clean animal with an unclean. The two animals would have to labor side by side in order to accomplish the same task since they were bound together by the one and the same yoke. Thus, in a figurative way, Paul warns us not to have fellowship with unrighteousness. Does this mean that you may not work side by side in the factory or at a desk in the same room with an unbeliever? No, Paul does not mean this. Paul says that the unbeliever’s yoke may not be upon us. The standards of the unbeliever must not serve as the rule under which we labor.
Soon you will be seeking a job, if you do not already have one. Following Paul’s exhortation we do not let the union serve as our yoke whereby we work with the ungodly. In the field of entertainment we must not let the world ,tell us that we may go to the movies because there may be some good there by which we can learn how to fulfill our cultural mandate. All very high-sounding and pleasing to the ear, but straight from hell, you can be sure. Never may the unbeliever be our direction determining our thoughts and deeds. We must separate ourselves from the unclean thing.
Why must this be so? Not because I say so. We obey this admonition because “Thus saith the Lord.” He has the absolute right to require that the creature shall serve Him and separate himself from all that is not according to the purity of His sovereign will.
Do not shrug this off as the impossible. Do you actually think that the Lord would require of you the impossible? You are a believer, are you not? You do confess that you are righteous, do you not? Are you not of the light, and of Christ, and the temple of the living God? Did not God say “I will dwell in them and walk in them?”
But on the other hand do not say that you are above this admonition because you already obey it. Come now, do you not find yourselves often contaminated by the world? The songs on the radio are appealing; the influence of TV is anesthetizing (mind-deadening); the colorful pages of worldly magazines cause us to drool, sometimes even to foam at the mouth. The young people of Satan seem to have such an attraction because of all their worldly goods and glitter. However, heed the Word of God, TOUCH THEM NOT!
To walk the life of a child of God you will need grace because the life of a Christian is a constant struggle. Certainly, you are righteous, but right in the middle of unrighteousness. You are the light, but in the midst of the darkness of sin and death. You have been recreated in Christ Jesus into a new man, but the old man still has plenty to say.
In all this you must remember that you are children of God. You will, in the way of obedience to His Word, experience in all its riches that you are His sons and daughters, and that His lovingkindnesses are upon you forever. Of this you can be sure because the same God that says “Be ye separate” also says as the Almighty Lord “And I will receive you.”