Some gardeners put up small fences or screens to protect their gardens from little intruders. For the gardener, the barrier is important, but it’s not the main thing; the garden is.
This simple picture helps to put into perspective the matter of biblical separation, whether speaking of separation from the world or separation from ecclesiastical unbelief. Separation is important, but it’s not the main thing; it protects the main thing. The main thing is your relationship with Jesus. Your walk with God, loving Him with all your heart, soul and might, trusting Him, glorifying Him—this is the main thing. Separation provides barriers to protect your relationship from harmful influences, and this is truly important. But the big deal is not separation; it’s Jesus.
The Scripture does not say that the greatest commandment is separating one from another. Yet, the greatest commandment, which is to love God, will involve separation. Jesus did not say that by this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you separate one from another. Yet, love, the greatest sign of discipleship, will not leave the boundaries of light and walk in darkness in order to love. The fruit of the Spirit is not that you separate one from another. Yet, the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, includes temperance, which necessarily includes matters of separation.
The key here is priority. If you make separation the main thing, the real main thing gets trampled in the fray. Speaking broadly, some of us in the last quarter of the twentieth century somehow got the idea that separation was the main thing.
Ecclesiastically, the problem at that time was that the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy involving separation from theological liberals had already been fought. We weren’t in ecclesiastical organizations with unbelievers. We didn’t have any true liberals (unbelievers) to separate from. But because we had begun to think of separation as the main thing, we separated from each other!
On the level of personal separation, this wrong priority led to pride as focus centered on maintaining and promoting one’s version of how separation should play out. Inevitably, this led to condescension toward those who differed. The emphasis on rituals over relationship gave a false sense of spirituality and obscured the truth that genuine spirituality is being in right relationship with the Spirit. The Holy One got lost in the focus on holiness.
By God’s grace some have awakened to the fallacy of this wrong priority. Others, perhaps, have yet to see this, and some may think an article like this seeks to deny separation’s importance. But that misses the point. Less important does not imply unimportant. It’s a matter of priority.
Separating is not what you live to do; it’s what you sometimes must do. (And as you wholeheartedly follow Jesus, you may even become the object of such an exercise and witness others’ separation from you.) In all this, remember, the main thing is our relationship with Jesus. As we maintain our walk with Him, we must apply necessary separation.
John Van Gelderen
About This Blog
Hello, I’m John Van Gelderen. I am an evangelist and the president of Revival Focus Ministries, an organization for the cause of revival in hearts, homes, churches, and beyond, and for evangelizing. This blog is focused on experiencing Jesus. I believe in order to really live, you must access and experience the very life of Jesus Christ.