Winds of Challenge-How to Unfriend the World and Still Love People to Jesus
March 11, 2020
The Modern Pilgrim #10- Pilgrim discovers she must choose between friendship with the world or fellowship with the Good Shepherd
Have you ever lingered in a toxic relationship, even though you knew it wasn’t healthy? Have you ever experienced a moment when your associates behaved in a way that made you want to shout, “I’m not actually like that?” I put myself in that fix a few times. Why? Because the alternative was loneliness and that scared me. Did you know how to be “in the world, yet not of it,” when you were in Junior High? I sure didn’t.
I moved to a different state between 7th and 8th grade. The girls that looked and sounded like me, in my new junior high, ignored me. Instead, the girls we called, “hoods,” back then, welcomed me. These ladies snuck smokes between classes and used words banned at my house. Their heavy foundation, deep blue eyeshadow and thick mascara made my lip-gloss-only face look childish. I didn’t care. After a week of eating lunch alone, I. Did. Not. Care. For a while.
For a month, I lived the plot of the movie “Grease,” me being Sandy and them, the Pink Ladies gang. I cringed at their talk about boys, romance, and worse. I felt embarrassed by their lippy attitudes towards authority and their micro-mini skirts. Yet, my speech and dress started to imitate theirs.
Finally, God brought me to an adolescent crisis where I needed to decide between a solitary life or aligning with these toxic friends, via a blood oath. Sort of. During school one day, all of them pierced each other’s ears. With safety pins. Without ice or antiseptic. In the school bathroom. I checked out.
The day after the ear-piercing show down, two sweet girls in my choir class invited me to sit with them at lunch. God led me into a new circle of friends whose morals and values lifted mine instead of mocking them.
Just another junior high story? Maybe. I think God designed it as an early test of my ability to live in the world yet not of it. I didn’t do so well that time.
In James 4:4, the disciple tells us that if we choose friendship with the world, that makes us an enemy of God. Yikes. In 1 John 2:15, the Apostle states, “Do not love the world or anything in the world.” Hmmmmmm….. And in Romans 12:2, the Apostle Paul commands, “Do not conform to the world.”
Many believers misinterpret these verses and others, to create a monastery style life. Along with that lifestyle, comes some interesting ideas about the believer’s role in society. Like, “Politics are dirty, and Christians should stay out.” And we should avoid immoral Hollywood or the music industry, professional sports, or the news media.
I believe evil abounds in those arenas of society because of the absence of God followers within those spheres of influence. When Jesus told us not to align ourselves with the world, he never intended for us to withdraw from it. Who did Jesus eat with and hang out with? Lots and lots of sinners. Was he engaged with the world? Absolutely. Was he part of the world’s belief systems? No.
So, based on Jesus’ example, what does it look like, in the 21st century, to be in the world yet not of it?
Christians should be first on the scene to love and serve people in times of need or crisis.
Jesus continuously met the needs of people with lives devastated by illness and demon possession. In your own neighborhood are needs great and small. Something as small as watering a neighbor’s plants during their vacation, or letting their pets out during the workday, can soften a world-hardened heart. Find needs. Fill needs. As God leads.
On a grander scale, you can financially support or serve as a volunteer with frontline Christian relief ministries, like Samaritan’s Purse or Convoy of Hope when there are national disasters and tragedies. Or, take initiative yourself. God is poised, waiting to deliver creative need-meeting ideas to people he can count on to carry them out.
Avoid a monastery lifestyle.
Who criticized Jesus for the company he kept? Religious folk. Hmmmm… “But what about our children?” you might say. Even my junior high story seems to support avoiding worldly people. Or does it? The rest of my story is that although those girls stopped being my besties, I never stopped talking to or showing interest in them. Or inviting them to church and youth group events.
During my daughter’s growing up years, many unsaved acquaintances spent time in our home. And sometimes their language, dress and behavior were rough. Her closest friends were Christ followers. However, we hosted many parties and get togethers in which unsaved classmates experienced a Christian family from the inside. If your child never interacts with lost students, when do they learn to share their faith? When do they learn to defend their beliefs and articulate them well?
I believe many Christian students enter college with weak faith and doctrine muscles. The statistics for Christian college students abandoning their Christian beliefs is crazy high. Parents need daily wisdom and discernment to know how to engage their family with a fallen world and how to equip their children to interact with it.
Befriend lost people without adopting their sinful choices as your own.
Seek to find the common ground of shared interests with unbelievers. There are so many places we can connect with people and build relationship, without carousing and sinning with them. Here’s a few ideas:
Parents of your child’s classmates and teammates. Move out of your holy huddle at the next soccer match and start a conversation with that Dad that keeps cussing out the refs.
Participate in groups with a shared interest, like quilting, golf or bowling leagues, softball teams, cooking classes, exercises, classes, etc.
Invite neighbors for a meal or just a cup of coffee. Just because they are your neighbors and you share geography. One of my friends always invites the whole neighborhood to their driveway on Memorial Day morning for a pancake breakfast. My neighbors and I all receive a discount on our trash pick-up because we banded together, and all chose the same company. Be that person who organizes that stuff.
Host workplace showers for co-workers who are engaged or expecting a baby.
If you love little kiddos, offer to do some discounted daycare for your neighbors. One of my friends earned the right to share the gospel several times by doing this for young moms in her neighborhood.
Bring in coffee and treats to your co-workers, for no reason. You’ll be amazed at the conversations that will start.
What can you do this week to engage with lost people around you, to be in their world without adopting its beliefs? Look for the places where God is already blessing and giving you favor. Would you also ask him for courage to approach the folks from whom you might normally shrink away? How will you live “in the world but not of it,” in real time this week?