What do you think of Christians who adopt a "survivalist/off-the-grid" mentality? Who sell their homes, move to remote desert or mountain locations, stockpile food, grow their own crops, live like "pioneers," and strive to be as independent of the "system" as possible? I know several people who are moving in this direction. I don't completely disapprove-after all, I'm sure we'd all be better off if we eliminated some of our modern luxuries and learned to live more simply. Still, I can't help wondering if this is really the way God wants us to behave as His witnesses in the world. What do you think?
It all depends on your friends' motives. Why are they taking these steps? What do they expect to accomplish by living this kind of life?
From a Christian perspective, there can be a number of positive spiritual reasons for stepping outside the boundaries of human society. Sometimes it's a good thing for believers to separate themselves from the influences of culture, at least for a while. Down through the ages Christians from a wide variety of backgrounds and theological perspectives have taken this step. Examples include the Desert Fathers of the third century and the Puritan Pilgrims of New England. These people had one main reason for "going out into the wilderness" (either literally or figuratively). They wanted to purify their hearts and minds and deepen their sense of dependency upon the Lord. They were seeking to wean themselves from conformity to the ways of the world.
Jesus Himself began His ministry by spending forty days in the desert. During that time, He looked to God alone for His sustenance and strength (Mark 1:12, 13). Later, He had a habit of withdrawing to solitary places for prayer and communion with the Father (Mark 1:35). Church history is filled with examples of Christians who have tried to follow His example in one way or another. Among others, we could mention the early Benedictines, the German Pietists, and the Utopians of 19th century America.
Even on the secular side there have been a number of well-known non-conformists who have gone "off the grid" and pursued a solitary life for purely philosophical reasons. Perhaps the most famous of these was Henry David Thoreau of Walden Pond, whose primary goal was to "Simplify, simplify, simplify!" The desire to live like a "pioneer" doesn't necessarily indicate mental imbalance or dangerous antisocial tendencies.
On the other hand, some who call themselves Christians have embraced the kind of lifestyle you're describing for reasons that aren't especially healthy. Perhaps the most noteworthy and most dangerous of these reasons is fear. We might describe it as "sanctified paranoia." Some of these people belong to sects and groups who are convinced that we are living in the "end times." They are desperately seeking refuge from famine, earthquake, persecution, war, and rumors of war (Mark 13:7-9). Others divorce themselves from the surrounding culture simply because they distrust the government or fear secular influences. Still others detest the "filthy" lifestyles of their "heathen" neighbors. It seems fair to say that these groups fall far short of the standard of Christian charity in their outlook and behavior. They have forgotten that perfect love casts out fear (I John 4:18).
As a way of getting at a truly biblical perspective on the question you've raised, let's assume for a moment that we are living in the end times. What then? How should a Christian respond? Fortunately, the apostle Peter gives us a straightforward answer to this question. Writing specifically with reference to the end of the age, when "the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat, [and] both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up," Peter does not suggest that believers head for the hills, adopt a "fortress mentality," and start stockpiling food and weapons. Instead, he asks, "Since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?" (II Peter 3:10-12).
As Peter sees it, end-time Christians – Christians who are living under conditions of hardship, stress, and opposition – are called to do one thing: they are to practice holiness and do good to others wherever and whenever they can. They are supposed to work the works of God "while it is day" (John 9:4). Paul seems to have been thinking the same way when he wrote to the Galatians, "Therefore as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Galatians 6:10).
In the end, you'll have to make up your own mind about the motives of your "pioneer" friends and the relative merits and deficiencies of life "off the grid." But if you'd like to explore this topic at greater length, call us. Focus on the Family has a staff of pastoral counselors who would love to speak with you over the phone.
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