to befriend, or not to befriend

In my last post, I suggested we ought to spend time with nonbelievers, even extending our friendship to them.  But that doesn’t go over so well in all Christian crowds.  Growing up, it seems the topic of every teen devotional was either abstaining from alcohol or choosing your friends wisely (so that we could abstain from alcohol). I’m not suggesting high school students need to be going to keg parties in order to witness concerning God’s kingdom. But I do believe having non-Christian friends can be wise — and Christlike.

To what can I compare this generation?  They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to others:

“We played the flute for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not mourn.”

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon.”  The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and ‘sinners.'”  But wisdom is proved right by her actions.  — Matthew 11:16-19

“Wisdom is proved right by her actions.” The actions of John and Jesus were completely contrary to what religious culture would expect and require. But Jesus explains that the wisdom of an individual is not judged by appearances or even popular opinion.  It is that individual’s actions, and the results of those actions, that demonstrate his wisdom or lack of it.

To be clear: Jesus never refers to himself as a “friend of tax collectors.”  That is what others were saying about him.  But we do know that he defends as wise his decision to spend time with that subset of people.  Is it always wise for me to spend time with drunks and cheats?  No, of course not.  But if my ministry is going to look like that of Jesus’, I will discern when it is the right thing to do.

It might be suggested, “You can’t be friends with nonbelievers, because that is hating God.”

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?  Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.  — James 4:4

James is not writing about being friends with people in the world.  He’s writing about being a friend of THE world — its way of thinking, its motivations, its goals and aspirations, its selfishness and pride. It is entirely possible to be friends with people in the world, without becoming a friend of the world. That’s what being salt is all about. We accept individuals as friends, and even enjoy our time together — but we reject those worldly ways in them. We exercise the wisdom Jesus spoke about, refuse to adopt or defend the ways of the world around us, and we especially don’t live like the world.  Our sharing of the gospel requires that we live blatantly spiritual lives among these friends, not living our lives just as they do.

Christianity is largely
about direction,
rarely about lines.

One of the keys to this entire conversation is how we view the people of the world.  When we see individuals as IN or OUT, saved or lost, we have drawn a firm line — and it’s easy to suggest true friendships should somehow be constrained by this line.  But when we see salvation as a process, and not a single point in time, we begin to see others as part of a larger story, as individuals on a journey.  And that line of potential friendship begins to get very blurry. Christianity is largely about direction, rarely about lines.

When Jesus befriended “sinners,” they were forced by his lifestyle to make a decision. They could not remain the person they had been.  They either would draw nearer to God, or they would live as they had, but forever with the knowledge of a better option.  If I’m living the life to which God has called me, anyone who would desire to have a friendship with me is “worthy” of being called a friend. It goes back to that direction idea. There were some lepers healed by Jesus that didn’t want anything to do with him — and so, they never spoke to him again, not even to say thanks. I believe Jesus, though, would have gladly counted them friends if they’d returned — he would have seen and welcomed their life direction. No God-hater who full out hates God without question is ever going to want to be friends with me. But a God-hater who is secretly searching for a greater power might. No over-sexed, alcoholic frat boy who is happy and content with his life is ever going to want me as a friend. But if he’s questioning his meaning in a world that seems to have none, he might. I would offer these people my friendship. If they ever decide they don’t want any part of God, I believe they’ll withdraw it.

I worry that our aversion to extending friendship to nonbelievers stems from a fear that Christians are going to start hanging out in bars, drinking, dancing, cheating on taxes, and doing everything non-Christians do…  because I’ve about had my fill of fearful Christianity — slippery slopes and concerns about what might happen down the road — how about we do what’s right, because it’s right? Will people abuse their freedoms?  Yes.  Will people excuse their disobedient lifestyles as being mission?  Probably.  But wisdom is proved right by her actions.  If I minister as Jesus did, with wisdom and out of the empowering of the Holy Spirit, I will never slide an inch down that sinister slippery slope.  Christ was friends with tax collectors and prostitutes, without ever once extorting money or paying for sex. I happen also to know he never even got drunk at their parties.  Instead, they saw his lifestyle, and had a desire for their own lives to be changed. His friendship was, in essence, their salvation.

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10 Comments

Filed under just thinking, mission

10 responses to “to befriend, or not to befriend

  1. “It is that individual’s actions, and the results of those actions, that demonstrate his wisdom or lack of it.”

    So we come full circle to the, “Does it work?” question….

    The unfortunate thing about blogs and internet “communities” in general, it that it’s mostly words. I can’t see your life and you can’t see mine. For all you know, behind all my fancy ideas, I could be addicted to crack and beat my wife. (I do beat my wife when we compete on our Nintendo Wii ; ) ) But seriously, the forum of words can be nice food for thought, but how is it working out in real life when eternities and God’s Glory is on the line? What has your experience or my experience shown to be true? Truth is Truth and always will be. But the greek definition of Truth, Aleitheia, is Reality… And the Reality and Outworking of these discussions is what ultimately matters. God has a distinct Thought on the zones of friendship and only His Thought will bear His Fruit. So in a few years, I guess we’ll see how it plays out…

    Some thoughts…

    A dictionary definition of “friend”
    “A person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection.”

    I maintain that giving your unrestricted affection away (friendship) to unRegenerate children of the Devil (whether “family”, co-worker or waiter) will do harm to you and those around you. BUT… Seeking their best, showing kindness, extending unmerited mercy, taking a bullet for them, washing their feet, listening with empathy… all these Jesus-traits can be extended toward them without forming a bond from you to them.

    I know this may feel like hair-splitting semantics, but what I’ve seen in real life is that the vast collective of those who call themselves Christians spend the majority of their time feeling more kinship and affection with unbelieving family and unbelieving friends than with those who are blood-bought Saints. Is this not true? At traditional sunday “services”, sure, there is an aversion THERE to include the “unclean”… the homeless person, the AIDS victim, the homosexual… but that is more of a natural dislike for those “type” of individuals. But the “rest of the week”, many (dare I say, “Most”) believers have ZERO conscience issues with rubbing shoulders and sharing affections with children of the devil who are like them… same color, same socio-economic class, same “orientation”, same love (or hate) of the Yankees, etc. Many christians today live mixed lives with mixed relationships. The ones who try to be more holy do tend to end up more self-righteous and that bears bad, bad, bad fruit. But the mixture is still unhealthy and must end at some point.

    Stepping outside the theoretical, how many believers will spend these upcoming “holidays” with their unbelieving parents or siblings and altogether sing “Silent Night”, all the while knowing these unbelieving children of darkness mock the name of Jesus with their lives the rest of the year? And MAYBE for one year that is the right thing to do… to be redemptive. But they’ve done it for the last 5 years and will do it for the next decade and no one stands in the gap and says, “You know what, you and I are different. You love yourself and I love Jesus. Of myself, that doesn’t make be better, but we are different. But how can you sing “Silent Night” and then get drunk at your holiday dinner at work? I love you and want the best for you. I really do. And because I do, I need to let you know that your are destroying your life by your own hypocrisy. Jesus wants to be your whole life and not just a made-up celebration once a year.” But no, no one does that because that would upset grandma. And “friendship” with the world is the result. Allowing sin to continue unexposed will leaven you. Eph. 5:11 “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” One may say, “I’m not participating in their sin.” But are you exposing it? Is the light of your life bright enough to where they at least feel exposed? Do you have the courage to call a spade a spade if that is what is necessary?

    Trust me when I say, I understand the clarion call to get off our self-righteous behinds and get our hands dirty. If I can’t get over my own natural discomfort for a gay man and give him a hug because that is what Jesus wants me to do for him, then I better stop wearing the name of Jesus. But I will NOT, at the same time, call that man my friend. I will be a friend TO him. But we won’t be friends in any sense that resembles my friendship with Saints. Semantics aside, those two relationships–with a Born Again member of Father’s House and with an unWashed unIndwelt human — should FEEL and BE totally different. Light has no fellowship with darkness. My affections will grow stronger towards him as he moves towards the light, but if there is no evidence of that or if a clear rejection of Jesus has been made, then we are definitely not friends, even though I’d still give him my last dollar or let him wear my coat after he just cursed God for the terrible blizzard.

    I believe the louder clarion call is: to express Christ’s Love, flowing out of a Holy and unMixed life, in the Midst of others doing the same. As true Saints shine brighter and brighter (as opposed to getting more and more self-righteous) and learn how to love each other better and better, then the world will see the incarnate Christ on earth again and be drawn to Him. No compromise, no mixture, just doing God’s Work, His Way.

    John 13:34-35   “I give you a new commandment—to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Everyone will know BY THIS that you are my disciples—IF you have love for ONE ANOTHER.”

    It’s true. Praise His Name.

    p.s. And Brett, I sent you a personal email that has an excerpt from this book, that might give you a bit more context to the Christ Life that I’ve gotten to experience daily for the last two decades.

    http://books.jesuslifetogether.com/Church-Prepared-For-the-Return-of-Christ

  2. T

    hmmm…I pray that God is showing you and giving you wisdom in making friends. I have several non-believer friends. I pray for them, and God tells me what to say to them. There always becomes a point where it is either time for me to ask what they believe or move on. That is never easy but with the Holy Spirit it is easier.
    May God bless the both of you in search of people who God is stirring in their hearts.
    Love you man

  3. andy, i read through the stuff you sent me, and it seems you guys are really experiencing the unity of believers spoken of in acts 2. it sounds like a really good group God has blessed you with.

    i’m not exactly clear, though, on your view of non-believers. in your post you referred to them as “unRegenerate children of the Devil.” to me, that comes off a little strong. are they not children of God who have lost their way?

    and you spoke about how we can show non-Christians “Jesus-traits” — in essence loving them — without forming a bond with them? is that really true in your experiences? i would assume that when i wash someone’s feet, listen to them with empathy, and seek their best, i’ve created some kind of bond. granted it will be nothing like the bond you have with your church, but it seems to be a friendship bond of some sort…?

    also, what we’ve witnessed in real life seems to differ quite a bit. you stated most Christians you know feel more affinity for, and kinship with, their non-believing friends. the Christians i’ve known for most of my life have either 1) been nominal Christians only, with little effect on their everyday goings on OR 2) been completely sold out for Jesus, but spent every bit of their time with church friends and at church functions, completely inward-focused. group #2 is who i generally think about when writing about mission and evangelism.

    by the way, i’m with you guys pretty much 100% on the purpose of believer gatherings being for the believers…

    thanks for the conversation, and the ideas.

  4. You essentially had 3 questions in 3 paragraphs, so I’ve divided them below. I want you to know that I’m taking very seriously our conversations and how they come to play in real life. I’m truly open to what you are saying and have no stake in this other than wanting to see the Bride here and there in Tanzania be all the Jesus deserves for her to be. It is so easy in our flesh to take a position and defend it without really begging God to take away any biases or agendas, to help us align oursleves with His Will regardless of the consequences.

    ____________

    A bit strong?

    Mostly, the clarity of using terms like “child of the devil” that has to do with Seeing and Perceiving the difference… not in a self-righteous way since by Grace we have been saved.
    But if one doesn’t see it that way, then any relational attempt will be without a foundation. Humility, compassion and embracing our own culpability and history are also critical to the foundation.

    From the Apostle of Love, who rested on Jesus’ chest:

    1John 3:7-14 NIV
    Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is OF THE DEVIL, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and WHO THE CHILDREN OF THE DEVIL ARE: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who BELONGED TO THE EVIL ONE and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were EVIL and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death.

    From Paul:
    Acts 13:9-10
    Then Saul, who was also called Paul, FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT, looked straight at Elymas and said, “YOU ARE A CHILD OF THE DEVIL and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?

    Jude 23
    Snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with FEAR—HATING even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

    And see if this this verse doesn’t also shed some light on our conversation:
    2Corinthians 2:15-16
    But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are THE SMELL OF DEATH; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?

    I own a highly edited (cutting out: foul language, immodesty, gratuitous violence) version of The Matrix… did you ever see it?
    Anyway, there is a scene where Neo is still in “the in between” … “being saved” so to speak, but not yet saved and still “bugged”…
    So they pick up Neo in the car and immediately point a gun at his head, letting him know that it is a necessary precaution because, even though they know he wants to “be saved” and be “unplugged”, that for the moment, he is still very much plugged in and capable of becoming a dangerous agent. They were trying to help him but were ready to pull the trigger. You have to know that, despite the “good direction” they are still on the wrong side of the line.

    That is what I picture when I read Jude 23… showing mercy mixed with fear.

    Between believers, that fear is gone. I can let my hair down, I can give my heart away, because I know what is IN them… the Holy Spirit and NOT the spirit of the age, the spirit of darkness.

    John 2:24-25
    But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was IN a man.

    _____________

    There may be a kind of bond, but not a yoke. We aren’t pals. I may even say in conversation with a guy I’m sharing Christ with, “Hey, we’re friends right? You can trust me.” I would be totally honest when I say that… I would mean it. But in my heart, that is a different kind of friendship in the order of magnitude that is as different as hell is from Heaven. There is something in a believer I can join my heart to that just is not POSSIBLE with an unbeliever.

    Your wife mentioned in her blog about building some relationships with local muslim seamstresses and how surprised they were that she was kind to them. That is awesome. She should keep that up and continue to build there. Even better would be if she and another sister or two could work together in building that relationship. That way the muslim women can see and feel the love of Christ among them (John 13).

    BUT, if I were her, these are things I wouldn’t say to them… (unless I knew, with confirmation from other believers, that the Spirit wanted me to)

    “Hey, I need your advice. As a friend, would you help me think through this trouble I’m having with my husband” (not that she would ever have trouble with you 😉 )”

    “Can you watch my baby girl this evening?”

    “You’re one of my best friends.”

    As soft as they might be toward the gospel, there is an intimacy and a trust and a comraderie that CANNOT be extended to someone who is not born again. A human can’t mate with a turnip. They are of different kingdoms entirely.

    ______________

    As to my experience versus your experience in regard to how typical christians function.

    First off, let me say that I grew up DEVOUT, and I mean DEVOUT C of C. Jeff Walling was my youth minister and I wanted to be just like him. I was party line all the way.

    Our congregation (Newland St. C of C) was one of the largest and most active C of C’s in southern California. I was extremely active in going to every youth rally and event, etc. Beyond the youth, I also had decent relationships with the adults and leadership. I went to Harding for 2 years and was a Bible major and very involved there. But in my second year at Harding is when everything changed for me. And since then (1988), I have not attended any mainstream C of C or otherwise. An occasional service here or there, but generally my life has been knit into the fabric of 100 mothers, brothers, sisters, children on a daily basis. No buidlings, no services, no programs or assigments of leaders or groups. Just multiple dozens of families who live close to one another and live out the good news in their community.

    So when I say,

    “But the “rest of the week”, many (dare I say, “Most”) believers have ZERO conscience issues with rubbing shoulders and sharing affections with children of the devil who are like them… same color, same socio-economic class, same “orientation”, same love (or hate) of the Yankees, etc. Many christians today live mixed lives with mixed relationships.”

    what I’m referring to are:

    -my memories of fellow C of C members in dozens of different congregations
    -my experience at Harding
    -believers who I meet in the workplace
    -believers who contact the church here for equipping and help
    -reading Christian Chronicle and other “brotherhood” writings
    -general knowledge of Christians at large (musicians, writers, etc)
    -the nominal ones that are in this list

    (For the record, Biblically speaking, there is no such thing as a church that has nominal believers. According to Rev. 2, 3, Jesus spews out lukewarmness and pulls away His anointing oil from that church. Nominalism is the accepted norm for denominational christianity because without the relationships in place that are iron sharpening iron on a daily basis, it is impossible to really discern who’s hot and who’s not. But according to 1 Cor 5, leaven is not permitted to continue and permeate. Sin happens but Jesus provided the tools for it not to continue indefinitely unchecked).

    But to those others you speak of who are sold out but seem to inward… If that loving on each other was truly demonstrated “in public and from house to house” and truly was SACRIFICIAL LOVE and not just social “fellowship dinners” and “habitat for humanity” projects, then I think the “missional” objective would begin to take care of itself. The bulk weight of the new testament IS NOT about loving and caring for unbelievers. It is about believers REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY living like they believe. Loving one another, helping each other with sin and child rearing and being good and faithful husbands and wives and not having the world’s priorities in how we spend our money and time, not idolizing entertainment and fun and sports and security and wealth, guarding what we allow through our ear and eye gates. ONLY THE HOLY SPIRIT CAN DO THAT. Only Jesus can work that miracle through a body of believers. And we he does, THAT ITSELF draws people to Himself. Can you imagine teens who love God for real, even MORE than their truly God-loving parents? Can you imagine no divorce, no infighting or pettiness? Can you imagine no racial or socio-economic divisions among Christians? “Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done, ON earth AS (or JUST LIKE) it is in Heaven.” Just like it is in Heaven. Father is answering that prayer.

    _______

    Peace,

    Andy

  5. andy, you make some good points. i will be brief:

    – as to the strong language, i will agree with you that it seems to be Biblical. i suppose i’ve skipped over those a bit in my mind, not liking how strong those terms sound. i’ve probably reacted against the IN and OUT mindset i was taught when growing up. but i still believe salvation is a process, and Christianity is about direction — so i don’t know that this language is useful for all people? even those currently being drawn to God by himself? what do you think?

    – we are just using different definitions of friendship. what you call a pal or a friend, i call a brother or sister. but i agree with the principles you’ve stated. we can’t form strong bonds of trust and intimacy with non-believers.

    – as for those who have serious faith in Christ, but are all inward, these are primarily who i was thinking about when writing. i do believe all that is necessary for them to be evangelistic is to live obedient, changed, and blatantly spiritual lives in their communities. when others see the abundant lives of Christians and how they love one another, they will be drawn to our God. it’s just that, where I come from, Christians don’t ever seem to live that life in their community. rather all of their time is taken up in church, student ministry, youth group, etc, programs and activities.

    by the way, i am really enjoying our conversation and the Christ-like way in which it’s being discussed. it seems a lot of replies to posts end up more debate and argument than conversation (and I am guilty of being argumentative at times).

  6. I’m not even suggesting you ever need to say that phrase, “Child of the devil.” But I would suggest that it is infinitely useful to be very clear minded about who we are and who they are. Again, I’m NOT talking about the sort of self-righteousness that Jesus condemned when talking about the pharisee and the tax collector… “God, I thank you that I’m not like this sinner…” Not that. Never that. In my innermost man I KNOW my ability to stand and breath Heaven’s air is by grace alone. I could give you a list of ways in which some pagans are better men than me. I know my weaknesses and how utterly dependent I am on Jesus and His blood. But for my own sake and for their sake, it is critical that the lines of separation be really clear, at least in my mind. I agree in principle to what you’ve said about about lines and directions. I believe Salvation is a process. But at the same time, come judgement day, there will be those who chose Faith in Jesus and those who chose self and death.

    Let me talk about an example from Jesus’ life in Luke 9 and 10…

    _________

    Jesus said to another, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say goodbye to my family.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

    After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him two by two into every town and place where he himself was about to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest. Go! I am sending you out like lambs surrounded by wolves. Do not carry a money bag, a traveler’s bag, or sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whenever you enter a house, first say, ‘May peace be on this house!’ And if a peace-loving person is there, your peace will remain on him, but if not, it will return to you. Stay in that same house, eating and drinking what they give you, for the worker deserves his pay. Do not move around from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and the people welcome you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in that town and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come upon you!’ But whenever you enter a town and the people do not welcome you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this: The kingdom of God has come.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town!

    __________

    So the disciple (Matthew calls him a disciple) who wants to bury his father… One could say that he was one of those in transition, yet Jesus was willing to say a hard word to him and says, what some would say, something cruel, “Let the dead bury their own dead.” Who were those he was calling “dead”? Aren’t they just God’s lost children? (I’m not poking fun at what you said earlier about that, but I am drawing a contrast). No, they are not God’s lost children. They are dead. They are of the kingdom of death and darkness and Jesus says, “Don’t waste your time doing what the dead can do. You are alive and need to proclaim LIFE to those who are being saved. Jesus was CLEAR CLEAR in his heart and mind about who He was and who those dead people were. And that clarity allowed Him to say exactly what needed to be said to that teetering disciple. He wasn’t fuzzy on the kingdoms. There is the Kingdom of Light and Life and Love and there is the Kingdom of Darkness and Death and Hate. Sometimes we can be so politically correct that we fail to express Jesus’ inclusiveness as well as His divisiveness. He said He came to seek and save that which was lost. He also said He brought a sword to divide.

    The passage goes on, with Jesus commanding those he was sending to CURSE those who didn’t welcome them. That is not poetry. Sodom was destroyed by fire and the curse they were to give was worse than that.

    Now I don’t want to give the impression that I think Christians should be mean and cursing all the unRegenerate. I’m merely painting the contrast. C of C has traditionally been somewhat mean spirited over doctrinal and dogmatic issues. But the real Jesus didn’t (and doesn’t) draw His lines based on doctrines, he drew lines on the quality of their hearts. And He, by the Spirit, has given us the ability to Discern. (1 Cor. 2) And sometime, it may be very appropriate to to point at a man who you know is causing someone weak and vulnerable to stumble and say, “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right.” According to that scripture, Paul was FULL of the Holy Spirit when he said that… that is how the Holy Spirit feels sometimes and we mustn’t let our natural (read: fleshly) man hinder the work of God because the strength of that language makes us uncomfortable.

    Were there Gentiles near the temple the day Jesus cleared it, yelling and swinging a whip around? That wasn’t very missional of Him. But zeal for the Father’s House consumed Jesus and that same zeal should consume us. And it says of Him, “He loved righteousness and hated wickedness.” But we say, “You must hate the sin, but not the sinner.” But at the end of the day, I think we’ve allowed ourselves to be too soft in our own minds toward the sin and the sinner. And although that may seem to be being nicer to the unRegenerate, it actually makes the path more difficult for them. And for us.

    Brett, there always come moments when the theory is set aside and the rubber meets the road. It is not my intention to call you out. I am not judging you at all. I respect you and your Work in Geita and your continued integrity in this dialog. But as a practical example, I noticed that when in Dar you went to see “New Moon.” Now I have nothing against movies, per se. I watch edited versions, probably once a week. I like movies. But from what I’ve heard, New Moon is about as sensual and evil as they come. Bare-chested chiseled young men throughout. Teenage angst and romance. Vampires and werewolves. I really don’t understand how a believer can sit through it and call it entertainment. Maybe there are some spiritual parallels that I’m not seeing (like in The Matrix that I mentioned). And maybe throughout it, in your heart, you hated the perverse things. Only you know your internal reaction to it. And now you may say, “What has this got to do with anything?” My only point is, when we love righteousness and hate wickedness like our Pioneer, we become very sensitive to sin.

    David, a man whom God describes as “a man after My Own heart,” says in Psalm 101: 3-4
    “I will set before my eyes NO VILE THING. The deeds of faithless men I hate; they will not cling to me. Men of perverse heart shall be far from me; I will have NOTHING to do with evil.”

    Paul says in Philippians 4:8
    “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

    The issue is much larger than, “What is your definition or my definition of ‘friend’?” or “Can a Christian watch movies?” Our entire interaction with the world–it’s people and it’s systems and priorities and entertainment, etc …. is of Crucial importance to Get Right, because if we don’t, then satan himself get’s his lying little claws into our ranks. This is a war (Eph. 6:12) and he is playing to destroy.

    Now I know that you, at one point, had a somewhat legalistic mindset. Me too. I think anyone who ever wants to take God seriously sometimes ends up there. BUT, in our centering, it is still possible to keep Christ’s standard very high.

    Before I write more, I want you to know, that I’m on your side. I want what is best for you and your family and the work of God where you are. On the movie thing, maybe I’m way off, but I wanted at least to try to get practical. So I sincerely apologize if I in any way offended you. In the quietness of your closet, ask Jesus, “Jesus, did you LIKE that movie?”

    Now to your last point. You said, “Where I come from, Christians don’t ever seem to live that life in their community. Rather all of their time is taken up in church, student ministry, youth group, etc, programs and activities.”

    Honestly, my heart breaks at such a state of things. And can I tell you what I’ve seen? Whether C of C, Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal or Lutheran, every denomination from A-Z, they all suffer from that same disease because FOUNDATIONALLY they are centered around times and places and events RATHER than relationships. They all believe more or less the same things. There are some distinct doctrinal differences for sure. But the achilles of any of those denominations is not their doctrines on baptism or tongues or end times. Their achilles–truly our achilles as the human race–is that we prefer religion over the life-forfeiting cost of living in relationship with a Current Lord and in the daily crucible of living in sacrificial love and abandonment with other believers. As long is Christianity is something I can attend, versus something I am, 24/7/365, then the church cannot be what Christ intended. Trying to help those believers who you described above to be more missional in their living won’t get it done. That is a no win uphill battle. I’m not saying it is too hard. I’m saying THAT is NOT the Solution God has provided. There are solutions but the scope is beyond what can be included in this post. Who is sufficient for such a task? This is at least a starting place: http://www.heavenreigns.com/read/right_here_right-now.html

    Thanks for enduring my ramblings.

    -a

  7. Andy, it seems as if I’m going to be responding in short bursts rather than all at once. So here is my first burst (…hey, that rhymed):

    “But for my own sake and for their sake, it is critical that the lines of separation be really clear, at least in my mind. I agree in principle to what you’ve said about about lines and directions. I believe Salvation is a process. But at the same time, come judgement day, there will be those who chose Faith in Jesus and those who chose self and death.”

    I agree that in the end there will be some who will be saved through faith in Jesus and others lost through faith in self; some goats and others sheep; some to the left and some to the right. BUT… (and you said this, but I want to stress it) “come judgment day.” And we’re not there yet. Their fate has not yet been sealed, so why treat them otherwise. [And that’s not fair to say, because I know you treat them with nothing but respect and kindness, while remaining separate. And I can get behind that.]

    But all the same, it’s not time yet for the separating. And it’s not my job either. I know there’s a difference between distinguishing family and judging, and I’m not claiming you are attempting to make it your job to send people to hell. But, also, you know I’m not suggesting Christians have, as their deepest and most intimate friends, nonbelievers. But if Christianity is directional, then I don’t want to draw firm lines until it’s time to draw them. Can I apply here the parable of the weeds? The farmer who had an enemy sow weeds alongside his good wheat — yet the farmer told his servants not to separate them until the harvest?

    I’m not asking anyone to be best friends with unrepentant pagans. But if someone is open to the lifestyle I’m living and the God I’m representing, then I think Jesus is happy for there to be some blurring and room for direction in the lines being drawn.

  8. Interesting that you wrote concerning Luke 10. Our mission team in Geita is following this model in order to meet people of peace in our community. If a pair sent by Jesus are accepted with peace in a home, they are told to stay there with that one family, eat and drink, minister to the household, and preach the kingdom. If they are not welcomed by any household in a community, they are to leave but not without first offering an incredibly strong sign of rejection and disapproval.

    But those reactions (staying and eating vs. wiping the dust off) are based on direction. If a nonbeliever welcomes you, then you stay in their home, eating and drinking with them, as you develop a deeper relationship with that family — and in turn gain access to the larger community, and even credibility in that community. If you are rejected, you leave.

    I am suggesting we befriend those who are welcoming to us — which necessarily welcomes our blatantly spiritual lives and the kingdom preaching we do. The reason we befriend them is one of direction — God seems to be drawing them toward him through his Spirit. Now, I don’t ask these guys for advice on my marriage; nor do I suggest we share a bank account or a toothbrush; and I for sure don’t have them rub sunscreen on my back… but I stay in their home and get to know their family. We eat a lot of meals together, and we dig side-by-side in the garden, while we talk about life. And I pray for their sick kids and their marriages, and probably offer them rides into town when I’m going.

    I see the benefit in recognizing evil, and resisting it. But I also see the benefit in recognizing an individual being drawn to God the Father by the Spirit.

  9. I must admit I’m out of steam to say much more. I’ve explained it as well as I can and my hunch is that in practice, we’d still be somewhat separate in how we relate to unbelievers. As I said before, time and fruit will tell and I say that with hope, not as a threat.

    Jesus was both inclusive, loving towards repentance those the religious establishment couldn’t tolerate and yet divisive, causing MANY to leave Him who preferred their darkness to His Light.

    But his time investment toward a particular soul, I would maintain, did not continue indefinitely. I would say the windows were fairly small as to how long he would endure someone who refused to repent. His life forced the issue, it forced the decision. But He would not, indeed COULD not, fellowship with darkness. He was a crossroad and we must be the same. And if time continues on and they still want to be around us, then we must keep the standard high and shine light consistently into their life. “Have nothing to do with the deeds of darkness, but rather EXPOSE them.” We must shine brightly, telling them, “You do know that your weekend drinking binges are killing you and removing any hope you have of experiencing real life. You are trying to escape it and not living the abundant life Jesus has prepared for you if you’ll just surrender to Him.” They will either get sick of us and leave or they will repent. But again, if I’m not clear about seeing their lostness, then I won’t be able to cleary speak to them about their lostness.

    And if goes on too long or if they feel too comfortable around me, then I know I’m not representing Jesus well.

    At lunch today, a brother mentioned a quote from some “archbishop” who said, “Everywhere Paul went, there was a riot. Everywhere I go, they invite me to tea.”

    The thing I think is hard here is that many in the C of C (and other denominations) have for so long been offensive to unbelievers because they have been fundamentally dogmatic, and that dogmatism is not the Spirit of Christ nor the love of Christ. What I’m proposing is that the real Christ is offensive and gracious at the same time. But we can’t be afraid of the offensive part, a little on the saltier side of salt, because the real thing will be offensive to those who are perishing. I’m not trying to make friends or enemies. I’m trying to be Christ. “Do your best to be at peace with all men” yet “woe to you if all men speak well of you.”

    Again, practical example: if my physical sister is an unbeliever, which she is, and she has no interest in Jesus, which she doesn’t, I can’t accept her invitation year after year to Thanksgiving, even though she wants her children to know their cousins, etc. No. Been there, done that. She has no interest in Jesus. I don’t want my children near her children. We have nothing in common. Over the years, we’ve extended love and graciousness, sent gifts, helped in practical ways. I’m never unkind. But we can’t keep pretending that we are related when we aren’t. She’s of another kingdom. I plant seeds. I extend hope. Not interested.

    Many chrisitans think that is mean. I think it is mean, and on the verge of homicide, to continue year after year as if nothing is wrong. THAT is mean. THAT is hatred, when we affirm a sense of security for those who feel secure.

    Jesus is looking for the hungry ones. Some may not seem hungry or may say they are not, but just below the surface, that hunger is there. It doesn’t take much to get it to surface.

    But if they really aren’t hungry, we have no right to be their friends. Because Jesus isn’t. Until they show some hunger, He has walked on and wiped the dust off His feet.

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