Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Two Kinds of Worlds to Shape

First of all, there are two angles to the word “world”. The first is the most common sense of the word. The planet earth. The physical place created by God where all humans dwell. We exercise mastery over it. We alter its geography through construction, agriculture, and the extraction of natural resources. With governments and militaries and businesses we control the movement of people and resources over it. Through many other avenues, we determine what it feels like to live in the world for ourselves and for others. We shape the world, collectively as humans.

In another sense, every person lives in and exercises some degree of control over his own world. He has a sphere of influence that includes his immediate physical surroundings. For a child, this physical world might be a play area or a bedroom. For a rural property owner, it may be acreage with a yard, garden, and wooded areas. For a city-dweller, it may be the interior of a rented apartment or condo. To the extent that we are able, we shape these places in a way that suits us and therefore reflects what is within us.

In the same way, we practice the less obvious human habit of shaping our “people environment” in a way that suits us. I read a proverb once that said it well: “Show me your friends, and I will tell you who you are.” The bottom line is that, to the degree we are able, we surround ourselves with the kind of people who make us feel comfortable, desired, and unthreatened. When we cannot find such people, we isolate ourselves and call it loneliness. This is how a person sets the tone for the kind of relational patterns that characterize her world (and, undoubtedly, her own behavior). By observing such patterns in other people, we can start to answer the question, “What would it feel like to live in Danny’s world? Or Katie’s world? Or John’s world? ”

So there is the collective ordering of the world at large and the private ordering of an individual’s sphere of influence. We must have both concepts of world-shaping in place as a framework for understanding salvation and redemption in Christ, and also for understanding what it means to practice life in Christ. The next few posts will focus on one or the other of these aspects of world-shaping, but in reality they are intertwined.

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