Graceful separation

Religious legalists work to demonstrate their holiness by hanging around the “righteous” and avoiding the “unholy.” On the other hand, Jesus wasn’t worried that contact with sinners would contaminate Him. He didn’t separate Himself from sinners; He passionately, persistently, sought them. If we want to be like Him, we’ll do the same.

Jesus became “one of.”

Becoming “one of” creates an opportunity for trust and trust is essential for others to feel love. Let me illustrate. A wife who doesn’t trust her husband can’t believe or receive love from him. Bring that idea into Christian living. Separation by isolation turns outsiders into the enemy. Avoiding outsiders creates antagonism and establishes an untrusting relational dynamic that blocks the love believers claim to extend.

Along with Jesus, believers must embrace unbelievers.

Some may say, if we don’t isolate ourselves, how will outsiders know we are different? I’ll respond by saying, external behaviors don’t make us different from outsiders. Truth is, unbelievers can and frequently do live as “good” as believers. Faith in Jesus makes us different.

Graceful separation isn’t isolating ourselves from outsiders. Unbelievers aren’t the enemy and believers aren’t above “sinners.”  It’s time to stop pretending we are. Nothing we do makes us better than an outsider.

Rather than separation by isolation, be separate by distinction. Living a life centered on and confident in Jesus is our ultimate distinction that finds expression in seeking not isolating ourselves from outsiders.


Grace Freak

Dan Rockwell

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10 Comments on “Graceful separation”

  1. Joli Says:

    Even while we were still his enemies, Jesus came to earth to be with us and then died for us. There is no greater love than this…

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Dan,

    Great post. Reminds me of this saying regarding the world, “In it, but not of it.” Also recently read James 2 which warns us against showing favoritism and partiality and imploring us to obey the royal law of loving our neighbor as ourselves.

    Also, wanted to share my thoughts with you regarding separation in a blog posting from a while back entitled, “Separate Paths” –

  3. Jared Y Says:

    With the bubble I am in in New Tribes, I find myself more upset with fellow believers because of the way they act around their peers. But when they get around unbelievers they are holier than thou and put on a good face. I wish I had the opportunity (and I will after May when I graduate and move back to California) to hang out with unchurched, un-New Tribes people because I have been stuck in a bubble and my mind is beginning to warp.

    I think there is great distinction between who we are and what we do. There are plenty of non-Christians that act more Christ-like than actual Christians. I need to tread lightly here because I find myself judging those like that and in turn become a jerk and judging is not my place. Only if we can have the teaching of how to walk in the sphere of God’s Grace rather than works based teaching in our churches; things might be a bit smoother in the long run. I don’t have all the answers but one thing I do know: We underestimate how big the sphere of His Grace truly is.

  4. landsway Says:

    A lot of good thoughts here. Let me add that the Pharisees did all the right things but according to Jesus they were found lacking. We need to live in the world but not be found of the world so that others may be able to come to Jesus because of what they see in us. We do not need to seek signs but we do need to realize the signs that will follow those of us who believe. I am talking of the signs found in Matthew 5 which we call the beattitudes. I am also speaking of the fruit of the Spirit. Anyone can do good works; but only believers will exhibit the attributes found in the life of Christ.

  5. John Gearhart Says:

    Hey Dan,

    Great post. I am definitely guilty of not persuing unbelievers and only gathering in the holy huddle from hell.

    I usually like to think of Paul when persuing outsiders.

    1 Corintians 9:19-24

    19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

    24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

    I have a problem with ignoring the outsiders and persuing only people that are already believers.

  6. David Wyatt Says:

    You know bro. Dan, a thought recently hit me along this line & I am still toying with it, not sure if it is on the mark or not, maybe you & your visitors can comment. I wonder if one of the reasons “real” sinners were attracted to Jesus (spiritually of course) was because He hated all sin as much as they hated theirs. IOW, they had come to see the awfulness of their sin & wanted free of it & saw in Him absolute love & mercy & His gracious love toward them made them know it was all right to approach Him. IOW He was approachable. Like James said in chapter 3, He was “easy to be intreated.” What’cha thank?

    • Dan Rockwell Says:


      I think love attracts. My take on it is that they were attracted to His love for THEM.

      Thanks for leaving your comment and I do think He was easy to be intreated. It’s a great image isn’t it.


  7. David Wyatt Says:

    Bro. Dan,

    Sorry I just now saw your response. yes, I believe so! The Bible notes that it was sinners who responded positively to Him mostly. They knew they were, & He had come to die for them, & we are them, too! I’m so thankful He loves us! Thanks & God Bless, yes it is a great image!

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