Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Reaching or Becoming the Lost

Abi let's her light shine on the 4th of July.

This from Bill:

I wanted to share some thoughts that ran through my head this morning as I read the Bible. The  following verse jumped out at me (don't worry, I'll translate it): 

2 Cor. 6:14 No se asocien √≠ntimamente con los que son incr√©dulos.

There is a small conflict between the concepts of reaching the lost through friendship and becoming the lost through friendship. 2 Cor. 6:14, in the NIV reads, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.” It  is often used in counseling couples against an interfaith marriage (especially given the marital meaning of intimacy). But, it has also been used more generally, as in the example of entering into a business partnership with an unscrupulous partner. The Message (by Eugene Peterson) phrases verses 14 and 15 this way, “Don’t become partners with those who reject God. How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That’s not partnership; that’s war. Is light best friends with dark? Does Christ go strolling with the Devil? Do trust and mistrust hold hands?” The interfaith marriage or unscrupulous business partner are very real and appropriate warnings which can be taken from this verse. The NTV (the Spanish translation quoted above) jumped out at me as I was reading it. My translation of the NTV sounds like this: "Don't have an intimate association with those who are incredulous (that is, with those who are critical of the faith)."

Hanging out with people who reject you is painful. As such, some Christians try to hide what they think, feel or believe about many topics, in order to avoid the ire of their so called friends. I say, "so called friends," because I don't believe it is possible to have a real friendship with someone who views the philosophical foundations of your life as foolish or stupid. To pull that off, one would have to be a hypocrite—either not saying what he/she really believes or not really believing it. The Message’s phrasing of verse 15 sums it up well, “How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That’s not partnership; that’s war. Is light best friends with dark? Does Christ go strolling with the Devil? Do trust and mistrust hold hands?”

It is hard for an honest person to be friends with dishonest thieves. The latter keep stealing from the former, then laughing at him for his gullible foolishness. It's possible to be an acquaintance with theives, but you have to keep your doors locked. As the NTV puts it, one can’t "associate intimately" with such people. An intimate friendship, in this case, is speaking about much more than mere acquaintanceship; rather, it's about opening up one's life, living without barriers, unlocking the doors. The Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary supports this, stating, "Paul has just appealed to the Corinthians for mutual openness in affection and in speech. His own heart is open wide to them, but both he and they know why they cannot reciprocate as fully as they ought. Some of them have an uneasy conscience about their continuing pagan associations.”

Real friendship requires reciprocal trust and respect. Real friends let their guards down and value one another. It is possible to be friends with somone who disagrees with your faith, as long as that person values who you are and respects you. But, if that person is opposed to your faith (incredulous), such that he/she speaks ill of it and anyone who adheres to it, then you cannot be real friends with that person--unless you are a glutton for punishment or hide what you believe.

The latter is the option that many Christians take. They live and speak like people in the world, in order to reach those in the world. It is analogous to becoming darkness to reach people living in darkness or to putting a basket over a candle. The latter example is rather funny, since it is nonsensical (you don’t light a light and then obscure it). But it goes beyond nonsensical to dangerous, since the basket will either snuff out the flame or the flame will set fire to the basket. In Luke 8:16, Jesus says, “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.” The bed statement would have been ridiculously obvious to Christ’s listeners, since beds were predominantly made out of straw. So, not only would the light not shine, it could end up burning down the entire house. That’s the danger of trying to hide the light within. If one tries to snuff-out or obscure the fire within, it will only come to a tragic end. It is also, as the verse points out, incongruent. Obviously, if one is trying to reach those in darkeness, at some point one needs to turn the light on. When that happens, a few will be grateful, but the majority will find that it hurts their eyes and they'll blame the light-bearer for their pain. In John 3:19-21, Jesus said, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God. (NIV)”

In other words, “Ouch!” They are going to cover their eyes, scream that you are hurthing them, then blame you. In fact, those who dislike the light will eventually go beyond blaming to accusing. In Matthew 5:11-12, Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (NIV)”

It is really hard to rejoice when people persecute you and “falsely saying all kinds of evil against you,” but according to Jesus (and I think He can be trusted on this subject), it’ll be worth it.

Today, those who have a strong opinion that is opposed to the politically correct teachings of the world (especially the part of the world that is located in Hollywood, California), are declared to be intollerant and irrelevant. As such, many Christians stray away from such topics in an attempt to win their friends and co-workers. Unfortunately (as detailed above), it is a failed methodology. It’ll destroy you. You can’t squash what you are in order to win others to what you are. That's nonsensical and dangerous. When you put on a mask in order to suppress what you really believe, you endanger your very being and may become that which you emulate.

I’m not saying that we can’t be acquaintances with people who do not share our faith. We have to be. Who else is going to tell them the truth? (See 1 Cor. 5:9-13) But, there is a big difference between an acquaintance and an intimate friend.

It is important for us to take heed of Paul’s advice against being “unequally yoked,” or (as the NTV puts it) having an intimate association with those who are incredulous. We cannot hide the truth in order to make it known. In our attempts to reach the lost, we don’t want to become them.

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