“Come out from among them and be separate” – meaning?

Paul, in no uncertain terms in 2 Corinthians 6:17, tells the Christians in Corinth to separate themselves from all contact with the pagan gods and idols in the city. They were to “come out” of all that nonsense they’d been involved in before, and have nothing to do with it anymore.

It was probably a tough order for the Corinthian Christians to obey, however, because they’d been soaked in paganism all their lives. It was like being told by your Doctor to quit smoking when you’ve been smoking two packets a day since teenage. The Doctor usually adds a useful incentive, though – like recovery from all lung damage in just two months if you quit right now. Paul too offered positive incentive to those Corinthian Christians to quit paganism, because if they really got serious about quitting they’d discover what it was like being loved as sons and daughters of the real God instead (verse 18).

Separation, then, wasn’t a negative thing. It wasn’t about being wary of your neighbours because of what they might do to you and your children. It wasn’t about being fearful of bad influences, like keeping your children away from non-Christian kids, or refusing a cup of tea with your Muslim neighbours, or not celebrating Christmas with relatives who don’t believe in God. It didn’t mean hiding away from society and cutting off all contact with people. It was about opening the doors of your mind to a whole new experience and the promise our Father God made in verse 16 to “live with us, walk with us, be our God and make us his very own.”

God wants to be “a Father to us” (verse 18), with all the benefits that only he can offer, but that’s difficult when we’re still attached to the gods we looked to in the past. It’s like being a step dad and watching your step son still hankering for his real father, even though the real father is a total dud, and you, the step dad, have given the kid everything he needs, and you always will. As a step dad in that situation you’d like to take the child to another country far away, to sever the tie with his useless father and make the separation complete, so the child can experience what it’s like being loved in a happy, stable, peaceful family at last.

Well, Corinth was like that useless Dad. It had nothing to offer in the way of love, stability and peace in life. It was all superstition and fear. So, Paul says, drop all that stuff, because it’s nothing like what the real God has to offer.

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