God had warned Israel as they entered and conquered Canaan, that they should not leave any survivors, that they should burn and destroy every vestige of pagan idols and religion. Else they would be tempted to worship those gods and leave their loyalty to their Lord.
This is exactly what happened.
Israel gave up fighting. They settled next to them, instead of driving them out and destroying their pagan altars, as God had said. So eventually they were worshiping their gods with them (Judges 1:27-2:13). God judges them with political, economic and military servitude (2:14-15). Even when He saved them from that servitude through the judges, they remained in their idolatry (2:16-3:4). Finally, the Israelites were willing to intermarry their children with the pagans (3:5-6). We live among them. We’ve become friends with them. We worship with them. Why discriminate again? Isn’t that racial prejudice? Giving up the fight against sin, growing comfort with the presence of idolatry around them had led to personal sin. Growing comfort with that personal sin then led to encouraging and endorsing their children to marry into pagan families that did not follow the Lord.
This is a picture of our spiritual warfare today. Even as God judges our ever more corrupt culture with political and economic servitude to foreigners, the church has grown complacent about the sin around and within. Have we given up fighting it? How do we live among and with unbelievers without tolerating godlessness, or implying by our silence or inaction that it is okay? How have we personally violated God’s Word to accommodate the situation? And how is that encouraging others (children, friends, etc.) to also compromise?
Let’s take the recent push for further acceptance of homosexuality in our culture.
We are unable to drive out this acceptance, at this point in our culture. (I’ll leave for another time whose responsibility that is.) This will lead to idols set before us, to which we are expected to bow the knee. There will be opportunities to compromise and sin personally, and lead our families that way. And there will be opportunities to shine the light of Christ for the lost to see.
That double edged-sword is always there where God’s people are called to live next to the ungodly. And living among unbelievers is not always a result of sinful compromise. “If only we were more faithful there would be no unbelievers!” This is not God’s plan, as the parable of the wheat and weeds reminds us. God means for us to be salt and light IN a rotting and dark world.
So take the warning: you can lose your saltiness and energy living in that world, like Israel did in Canaan.
Or you can bring others to the light.