How to Live in a Crooked World
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.”
The word “blameless” in verse 15 is important to break down. There’s a difference between being “blameless” and “sinless.” We’re not sinless! Instead being blameless is the result of how Christians live out their lives amid a crumbling culture; when we shine Christ’s light and strive to do the right thing, we take on the characteristics of being blameless. Consider when we’re around others who sometimes apologize to us when they use foul language or tell dirty jokes — because they know we’re not like that or are about those things. That’s a sign of our blamelessness.
The ancient Greek word related to the phrase “crooked and twisted”— it’s called “scolios,” which of course points to the familiar English word “scoliosis,” a painful condition when the spine is twisted. So when we’re talking about a “crooked and twisted generation,” we can safely say that generation’s condition involves some degree of pain! The way nonbelievers live is not “fun” or “cool” — when push comes to shove, it hurts. And not necessarily physically (although that can be part of it) but also spiritually and emotionally. And when pressure comes, they can’t handle it and get crushed.
That illustration ought to inform us about the plight of others with whom we share this planet — because as the rest of verse 15 states, we “shine” in their midst “as lights in the world.” Again, they see we’re different, they see we’ve changed, and they notice something about us that deep down they desire.
Let’s also ask ourselves in what manner we’re shining our light: Are we doing it annoyingly, right into others’ eyes … or are we helpfully guiding others’ paths, making sure they don’t trip? Let it always be the latter.
Another important point comes from verse 16 where Paul hopes we’re “holding fast to the word of life.” We have two cultures existing in front of us each day: that of the world and that of the Kingdom of God. And when we fall into the habit of spending more time digesting the culture of the world — such as cable news — then that gets in the way of the culture that will ultimately endure: the one belonging to the Lord’s kingdom.
In that light, we are all in this together, struggling and triumphing as one people of God. As we began this all-important passage with the command to stop our grumbling and disputing, we close it literally with worship. And if you’re truly worshiping, it’s impossible to be grumbling and disputing and complaining. So let us worship and rejoice and move forward in our lives accordingly.