Read Revelation 18
As I was growing up and began to make friends at school, we were taught the phrase “bad company corrupts good morals”. It was a true statement then, and it continues to be a true statement. The point was that we were to be aware of the kind of people we chose as friends to hang around with. I found this truth to be valid, as I got a little older. Some of the friends I had chosen brought out the best in me, others – not so much. By God’s grace, and by the efforts of loving parents and a caring church family I was guided for the most part toward the kind of company that encouraged healthy social and moral behavior.
In today’s reading John is shown the destruction of the great city of Babylon, which represents everything immoral and illegal about humanity. Just prior to the destruction of Babylon, he hears a voice calling the people loyal to God to come out of the city.
Then I heard another voice from heaven saying,
“Come out of her, my people,
lest you take part in her sins,
lest you share in her plagues;
for her sins are heaped high as heaven,
and God has remembered her iniquities. (v. 4-5)
Apparently the reason God’s people are called out is not just to spare them from destruction, but also to spare them from being drawn into the immoral activity that went on there.
As followers of Jesus in an increasingly immoral culture, we are called to be set apart from the world when it comes to attitudes and actions; however, we are not called to isolate ourselves from the world when it comes to reaching out to people who are near to us, but far from God. It is important that we recognize that God often brings people who are unlike us across our path not only because we have what they need, but because He intends also to use something they have to help us become more like Jesus. We have a connection with Jesus Christ – we have the Holy Spirit within us – we may be the only channels at that moment through which God can reach out to a person who is seeking Him. What they have for us is very often just the ticket God needs to help us adjust an attitude or to build some character trait we lack.
So while it is important for us to “come out of the city of Babylon”, it is also important that we continue to reach back in as God leads us, not just for the sake of those who have yet to discover that they too are loved by God, but also that we might continue to grow into all that He created us to be. We sometimes refer to this as being “In the world, but not of the world”. Where exactly the line between “in” and “of” is may well be unique to each of us. The Holy Spirit is always there to convict us when we drift too far from either side of the line – provided we are listening to Him.