Separation From The World (Part 2)
November 1, 2012
In Separation from the World, Part I, I wrote: “One of the [main] beliefs maintained by the plain people surrounds separation from the world. In fact, while studying our rich culture, I discovered that if you look past that one belief, the average plain person isn’t [all that] different from any other person alive.”In this article, we're going to look closer at our plain culture's practice of "separation from the world." The "world," if you stop and think of how we tend to view it, is considered primarily to be men, women, and children who do not visibly look or act differently from those who do not profess to be Christians. Often people who claim Christ as their Savior, but dress in non-Amish and Mennonite clothing, are considered "in the world."
Amish and Mennonite Symbols of Separation from the World
Clothing is one of the biggest concerns in the plain culture's separation from the world. In Amish communities, all clothing must be custom made just for them, and the colors and styles are different enough that it's impossible to mistake an Amish man for anything other than an Amish. I remember a preacher saying that plain clothing is a plain person's uniform, much like a policeman, fireman, doctor, etc. would wear to separate themselves from others. He stated that the plain person's clothing is a confession to God and man, showing separation from a worldly lifestyle.
Other forms of separation from the world include the belief that a person should work with their hands, not own large businesses, not interact too much with non-plain people, drive horse and buggy, and various other rules which clearly mark the plain lifestyle.
Consequences of the Plain Structure
All of these rules of separation make plain communities a much tighter group, a kind of world in and of itself, though it unfortunately doesn't always draw the members closer to each other in friendship. In that regard, many are no closer to each other than those of the world might be. While there is some lack in close friendships, however, plain people make it up by assisting one another when help is needed in barn raising, repair, etc. My heart's cry to the plain people is the same as Paul's in 1 Corinthians 1:10:
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
In a similar way, we see an unfortunate amount of peer pressure among the plain people as a result of the religious lifestyle they live. As stated in Galatians 3:10, if a person attempts to live up to a standard, when he fails, as we all will, that person will be rather miserable. In fact, Paul says it's a curse to not live up to all the laws. This is true because we are held to the law if it is what we trust in, instead of surrendering to Christ:
For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. (Galatians 3:10)
Our inability to live up to Christ's standards is clearly stated in Acts 15: 10:
Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
My friends, even the best of the best in the Bible weren't able to live up to God's standards and, I confess, so much more are we unable.
But, we who accept Christ's righteousness in place of our own are no longer under the curse of the law:
But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. (Romans 7:6).
We are free indeed and now do serve, but we serve in the life of the spirit rather than according to the law - works which produce no life.
If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. (John 8:36)
Plain but Living in the World
It is true that plain people separate themselves from the world, and that is a good thing. However, based on Matthew 13:22, we know that plain people do face a very real reality of being part of the world unless their focus is on Christ alone
...and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful:
When Jesus speaks of the world, He's speaking not as much of particular habits, but of the things of this world - as He mentioned in the previous verse, the cares of this world. We all, whether plain or not, have only one of two things to focus on: earthly things or heavenly things.
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:24)
We can see that even the plain person's separation from the world, alone, cannot keep a person from living according to the world's standards. Christ's standard is set in Matthew 6:24 - we either care for things of heaven (serving God) or things of earth (serving mammon or self).
Religion, whether plain or otherwise, will even lull oneself to sleep as he starts thinking he is living the "right way," as he thinks God intends that he live, and forgets that Christ alone can atone. May we all be firm in accepting Christ's righteousnes first, in order to live our lives righteously as the Life of Christ brings fruit.
When I read an article or book, I like stories and examples and would like to add one here to help explain a world perspective. Nearly all Mennonite denominations (whether they are driving a car or horse and buggy) associate red cars as worldly; I personally associated red cars with being wild and worldly. Later, though, I realized if there aren't any rules concerning color of cars, it becomes a matter that few people even think about. In fact, the average red car owner isn't even aware that his color choice is any different than what any other color might be. In reality, it isn't any different. What can be different is our motive for wanting a particular color, and we can even have pride in what we call a "conservative color."
Because it's "where we draw the line," our rules are what we tend to think about most. If a person only focuses on Christ, all of a sudden that person starts to think about Him and His way of Life. Suddenly, we are all-consumed with following Him and disregard all comfort and thought of ourselves. If we are bearing our cross and following Him, we will even give our life for Him alone - all because we understand that it's about Him, not about us.
The World is Wrong
To conclude, I wish to emphasize that plain people are right in recognizing that the things of the world are sin and, in fact, contrary to God. To live only for Christ is a tall order, and we can only do this by denying self. May we all deny ourselves and follow Christ recognizing that our only hope is in truly denying the world, choosing instead Christ who is our righteousness indeed.
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