It certainly is, comparatively speaking, a subplot. But it is plenty important. As God’s Word describes the power of God’s words in creation, we ought to be astonished. God speaks, and there is light. He speaks and the whole of the universe comes into existence. Creation ex nihilo—the doctrine that God did not merely rearrange preexisting “stuff” to form our universe but spoke it into being—is true, however mind-boggling it may be. God did, however, arrange what He created. Included in the creation account is not just creation, but also division. God divided the earth from sky, dry land from water, day from night. We serve a God of divisions.
The divisions that God makes do not end with the completion of creation. God continues to divide in Genesis 3, when, after Adam and Eve fell into sin, dragging all their progeny with them, God promised that He would make another division. He told the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed” (v. 15). We are all by nature the seed of the serpent. God’s promise, however, is that He will call some out of the darkness and into His marvelous light, that our natures will be changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. There is now not just night and day, land and sea, but us and them.
We live in an age, however, that eschews divisions. The broader culture embraces inclusivism, and calls us to do the same. It seeks to blur distinctions at every opportunity. Men and women are interchangeable parts. Good and evil are but weightless individual choices. True and false are just constructs in our mind with no connection to a knowable reality. Which, ironically, is precisely why they must draw us outside their circle of unity. Because we, if we are faithful, will not play along. We are set apart from the folks who think people should not be set apart. Indeed, we are hated by those whose mantra is “Love is all you need.”
Which puts us in something of a pickle. Jesus, after all, calls on us to love our neighbor, to love our enemies, to do good to those who persecute us. Our neighbors, our enemies, those who persecute us understand love to be, at its core, permissive. Love, we are told, means never having to say you’re sorry. We are therefore tempted, out of love, to join the crowd.
As with all magic, whether the entertaining kind or the diabolical kind, you have to watch for the misdirection. We are led astray because we don’t usually notice, because of the misdirection, because of the switch. Love, we would be wise to remember, is what God is. We ought to seek out how He defines it, rather than how the world defines it. And again, ironically, His definition affirms the reality of us and them. It affirms that we are set apart and distinct from the world outside us, and yet affirms our solidarity and love for those outside.
Love means always telling you that you must be sorry. The very height of love to our enemy, to our neighbor, is precisely to call him to repentance, to exhort him to turn from sin and come to Christ. The obvious way that this is love, of course, is that it redounds to the well-being of the recipient. There is nothing we can do for those outside the kingdom that would help them more than to call them to repent. When we stand outside the abortion mill imploring those going in to turn from their sin, we do so not because we hate them and want it to go poorly for them, but because we love them and want it to go well with them. Without repentance, they will face the unflinching eternal wrath of the Father.
But it is also love because it means we will be hated. Our calling is to love our enemies enough to be hated by them for calling them to repent. They won’t see it that way. They will rail and accuse, bludgeoning us with accusations that we are narrow and unloving. Our calling is to bear up under this—for their sake. Our temptation is to mute the call to repent—for our sake.
When Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world, that we are a city on a hill, He tells us both that we are to be set apart from the world, and also that our set-apartness is what is best for the world. As we are a more distinct people, marked by the pursuit of His righteousness, as we highlight the contrasts between us and them, we call them to repent. As we confess that we, too, were once as they were, that we walked according to the course of this world, we show them that in His kingdom there is a doorway, a way in. As we remember there but for the grace of God go I, we live in a way so as to remind them that He is that doorway.
We are a set-apart people called to call those from whom we are set apart to come and join us. And nothing can separate us from His love, to the everlasting praise of His name.