The social science of “Be ye in the world, but not of it.”

I’ve been seeing more and more about how ideas spread in social networks – even ideas as seemingly “non-contiguous” as smoking or being overweight. A recent TED talk by Nicholas Christakis has me thinking about these things again. Nicholas’ talk was primarily about the spread of infectious disease in a local social network, but based on other research it seems very likely the findings will translate to many other things in a wide variety of social networks.

As I thought about this, about how strongly but subconsciously our social networks influence us, I thought about being “in the world but not of the world.” (I know that is not a biblical quote, but I think it’s a concept that is easily supported biblically – see here for Scriptures). If we look at how we are affected by others, and realise that we are more affected by those we are closest to (our friends), it becomes clear to me that we must take care in how deeply we become connected to those who do not follow Jesus as we follow Him. I also see in this Paul’s warning that those who claim to follow Him, but don’t act it out, are far more dangerous to us than those who do not claim to follow Him.

On the other side, I see how we can influence those around us, both those who follow Him and those who do not. However, we can only influence those with who we are in relationship. Does that put us in a contradiction, trying to limit contact with “the world” to protect ourselves, while trying to connect with the world so we can share Him? This is the delicate balance of “in but not of”. If our closest connections, our deepest friendships, are with those who influence us to good, then we should be in a safe place to positively influence others.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Today is pastor appreciation Sunday. I have worked with and around many, many pastors over the years, and I can assure you that it is one of the most difficult and stressful jobs any person can have. It is also, generally, a very underpaid job. Please tell your pastor how much you appreciate him or her. A gift will back that up nicely, and my preference is to give a gift certificate for something the pastor and his or her spouse can do as a couple. Or for single clergy, gift certificates to a nice restaurant, a book store, or so on. Sorry I didn’t get this out sooner, but October is clergy appreciation month, so you can get something this next week and give it when you get it.

Links to blog posts that stood out to me this last week:


New Blog this week:

anonymous8 – Not quite what I usually share, but What Every Guy Should Know About Foreplay is just too good to pass up.

Better Husbands and Fathers

You Can’t Solve All Her Problems… So, Stop Trying!: Wise words – read and heed!
Date Your Wife: Birthday Service: Good ideas for making your bride’s birthday special indeed.

Intimacy in Marriage

Wives Who Want More Sex. And Aren’t Getting It.: This is a woman’s point of view on wanting sex and being refused. Might be just the thing if your bride is refusing you. On the other hand, if you are a husband who says no to sex – STOP IT!
Battling Body Image? Read “Unsqueezed”: Are there any women who are NOT dealing with this issue? Julie says “…many women confide in me that ‘body image’ is what often sabotages sexual intimacy in their marriage”, so this is a major issue in which every husband should take interestet. Point your bride to this, or buy her the book.

Marriage Gems

Scientists: Love Lasts Longer Than Thought: Lori points to a very important study that says you can be deeply in love decades after you marry. For my take on this, see Be way off the curve

Simple Marriage

12 Cozy Date Ideas for Fall: Melissa has some fall date ideas. As Melissa is female, her ideas will probably have a high success rate with women.
5 Ways to Encourage Healthy Habits in Your Spouse: This guest post has some great ideas on ways to influence your bride towards better habits.

4 Comments on “The social science of “Be ye in the world, but not of it.”

  1. Great post…. but I’m sure you meant the title to read “Be ye in the WORLD, but not of it.” I think you would completely support being of the word. :-) Thanks for all you do!

  2. Paul,

    I agree with your post wholeheartedly. However, I wonder if we take this as far as the outward appearance. It seems like the lack of modesty is running rampant in christian circles today, that the world really can’t even tell who are christians and who are not. We have some mennonite friends that told the story of being in an emergency room, and there was a woman who was very distraught about a loved one they had brought in. When the woman saw my friends, she walked over to them and asked them if they would pray for her. My friend said the only reason she would have even known that we were christians was because of our appearance. (they dress very modestly, and the wife wears a head covering). That story stuck with me. Not that I feel we as women need to wear head coverings, but that the world seems to have somewhat of a picture in their minds of what a christian should look like. I think we as christians, especially women, have forgotten what modesty is all about. Why do we need to walk so close to the line of the world, that not even the world can tell the difference?

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