What position should a Christian take toward the world in which he lives? Should he reject it and withdraw? Should he try to transform it into a Christian culture? Should he embrace it? This is a lasting issue for Christians because every Christian must relate his or her faith to his or her surroundings. In one way or other, this question of Christianity and the world in which we live has been tackled by Christians in every generation. Deciding how to apply the Lord’s teaching to be in the world and yet not of the world, is difficult. But each of us must do it because our decision affects the way in which we arrange the very essentials of our lives. Discussion of this topic has been lively over the years.
The Lord made us with a purpose. He knows how He would like us to turn out and He has described His ideal for us in the Scriptures. Reflecting on the biblical patterns and models for Christian men and women prepares us to become the kind of persons we are intended to be.
Christians cannot be so much a part of the world that their mentality is shaped by the trends of the world rather than by the teachings of Jesus; their lives must not be virtually indistinguishable from the lives of those around them. We, Catholics, are rarely evangelizing the world; too often we are being evangelized by the world.
If we want to transform the world, we must be willing to be different enough from it. We do not need a new culture, but we must act and look like Christians, even when those around us don’t agree or encourage us. We need to offer an alternative lifestyle, not so that we can withdraw from the world, but so that we will have something valuable to offer the world.
The increasing incidence of premarital and extramarital sex, the legalization of abortion, the continued progress of movements and programs that are not based on Christian principles and values, the growing number of government agencies that are overtly and covertly hostile to the Catholic Church and Christianity – all of these point to an increasingly difficult situation for all Christians today. If we simply greet this actual world with open arms and affirm it as good, without taking stock of the very real and sobering challenge it presents to us Catholics and to the Christian life, then we are not dealing with the real world, but only with some distorted view of what some people say it is. We as Catholics need to assess the actual situation and we should be prepared to speak out and to work harder to make our God-given principles and values shape the world around us and thereby make this world a better place to live in now and for the future.