I was struck by today’s reading from Acts 28, especially verse 11:
It was three months after the shipwreck that we set sail on another ship that had wintered at the island—an Alexandrian ship with the twin gods as its figurehead.
These were the gods Castor and Pollux, Greco-Roman deities who, according to myth, were the offspring of Zeus (Jupiter) and Leda, the figures that eventually formed the constellation Gemini. (Read Yeats’s “Leda and the Swan” some time, but not if you’re easily offended.) They were depicted as great horsemen, but were also venerated as the patron-symbol for sailors, a talisman promising fair winds. This, of course, is pure superstition. Still, what Christian would want to be associated with such un-Christian symbols and ideas?
Sometimes Christians view holiness in a false way, seeking to separate themselves from unbelievers or the world in a spatial sense, like Colossians 2:20-23 says (The Message):
So, then, if with Christ you’ve put all that pretentious and infantile religion behind you, why do you let yourselves be bullied by it? “Don’t touch this! Don’t taste that! Don’t go near this!” Do you think things that are here today and gone tomorrow are worth that kind of attention? Such things sound impressive if said in a deep enough voice. They even give the illusion of being pious and humble and ascetic. But they’re just another way of showing off, making yourselves look important.
A really religious person would have refused to get on this ship because of the twin gods on it.* Just like that refusal, we sometimes think that God is calling us to “boycott” the world, use only Christian businesses, remove ourselves from any traffic and truck with worldly people, symbols, or anything “secular,” a stance which props up religion, but does no good for us or the cause of Christ.
Just like Jesus was accused of being worldly and irreligious (Matthew 11:18-19), the follower of Christ who pursues true holiness and is smack in the center of God’s will may sometimes be misunderstood. True holiness is circumcision of the heart: loving God more than anything, dying to yourself and living by doing everything as unto Christ (Colossians 3:3-11 / 12-25).
*(I know Paul, prisoner, had no choice, but the text voices no objection.)