I’ve just had a really lovely weekend with Ben, he came down to visit from Bradford and spent the weekend in Exeter with me. I’ve noticed that he’s picked up lots of little northern sayings and mannerisms, his accent hasn’t changed but I wonder how long it would be until he picked up a yorkshire accent. The more time Ben spends in Bradford, the more northern characteristics that he picks up. 1 Peter 11&12 says:
“11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”
I always found it funny how the word “foreigners” was used. If we were to go to another country as ambassadors for England, we would be foreigners in that country. We would learn to speak that language, learn their customs, learn their ways of talking and living but we would still be English and ambassadors for England. We’re called to be ambassadors of God’s Kingdom, representing God and sent to the world as foreigners. However, the more time you spend in a country, the more of their characteristics you pick up. The longer we spend in the world, the more worldly habits and characteristics we pick up: talking with friends about the scandalous news we’ve just heard, thinking how clever and wise we are when we say something profound in lifegroup, walking straight past the man trying to sell us the big issue. It is so easy to pick up worldy habits.
We therefore need to get rid of these habits. It’s only when we return home to our native country that we recognise habits picked up and our home habits can be topped up. When Ben returns to the south, his friends at home recognise areas that he has picked up northern habits. Now Ben’s habits aren’t necessarily bad (saying “brew” instead of “tea”) but it is home where we recognise worldly habits. We need to retreat to our home – God’s kingdom – to the Word and to Church, to top up on our godly habits to bring out our God flavours and God colours so we they don’t tarnish.
I’ve often heard it said that you become the company that you keep. Proverbs 13v20 says ” 20 Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” Ben’s picked up some brilliant habits from Abundant Life, like verbal encouragement for the speaker throughout a service – he is walking with the wise and becoming wise. If we are to be foreigners in the world but we need to “live good lives among the pagans”, we need to immerse ourselves in God’s word and Christian friends as well as immersing ourselves in the world so when we go out into the world “they may see good deeds” and not see a reflection of their own worldly ways. We are called to lives that glorify God. In order to do this, we must retain our godly habits.