This is not the first time that I have sat down unable to find a clear message for you. Writing is rather like masochism. It hurts me, but I enjoy it. I find some matter of purpose in it.
I have a story that I am outlining. I will not go into it because I know that it may not be interesting to everyone. As a science fiction whore I tend to forget that from time to time and will excitedly prattle on about aliens and space travel. In brief I will elaborate on one of my protagonists. His name is Lewis.
Lewis is a most particular man of God. Lewis has a question because I put it in his heart. Here is the question: how can a believer and an unbeliever be friends? Doesn’t this seem incongruous and quite impossible?
I cannot help but divide my friends into these two groups: ones that know God and ones that do not know God. It is not segregation that I mentally put on. It happens naturally because the love I have for God, the passion I have for him cannot be shared with unbelieving friends. I lose that invaluable connection with them. I can’t tell them about the struggles I’m having in my spiritual life. I can’t rely on them to guide me in God’s word. When I am joyful and have peace I can tell them about it…only to receive blank stares.
In this way I am biased with my friendships. Christians who I know have a higher trust value with me because I know we can speak about Jesus openly and cheerily. Mentioning Jesus to my unbelieving friends is not only uncomfortable it is discouraged and received with averted eyes. Believers will make you grow in your relationship with Christ, but unbelievers are more likely to pollute that relationship.
In my story, Lewis becomes the friend of an atheist named William. The two are in middle age. Somehow they are put together on an adventure filled with impossible creatures, mutations and the struggle between light and dark. William hates Lewis because he believes in God. It angers him. Lewis tries his best to love William and to love people (which is not easy). Lewis does not hate William, but he is definitely unhappy in his presence. Gradually the two men find reasons to like each other. They start to share terrible stories of personal pain and loss. This tiny seed of friendship grows where there had once been ash.
William continues to have animosity toward Lewis for being a Christian. That never goes away despite the friendship.
In my own life I am puzzled by these things. When a friend talks about her lesbian relationship I just keep quiet and wait for the conversation to change topics. When another friend goes on at length about her atheist boyfriend I bite my lip. When other friends talk about getting wasted…about their sex lives…complaining about all kinds of things…I just want to leave the room like a silent ghost that was never there in the first place.
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” 2 Corinthians 6:14-15
Always a good moment to pause and reflect on the fact that everyone is evil. When Paul refers to believers as righteous and unbelievers as wicked he means this in terms of Christ. Christ makes believers right with God and therefore their sins are not counted against them. They are referred to as righteous BECAUSE of Christ. Whether believer or unbeliever sin is always going on. Don’t be confused by that.
When Paul goes on to mention light and darkness he refers to believers trying to live a good life for God (living in the light) whereas living a rebellious or unbelieving life is living in darkness. The verses above have been applied to marriage as well. If a believer marries an unbeliever there can only be sorrow because both people are pulling in opposite directions. It is far more likely that the believer will be corrupted and turn away from God than the wayward spouse turning toward God.
In any case, the verses above are showing the dividing line between the world and God, between light and darkness, between right and wrong. It means that believers should not live like unbelievers. There is a difference between the two.
“Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’” 1 Corinthians 15:33
There is a very sad reality with rehab. An addict checks in to a clinic and she may make some real progress. She’s clean the entire time she’s there and the world isn’t ripping apart at the seams anymore. Things are more stable. But…the addict can’t live in rehab forever.
When it’s time to return home the addict also returns to the same toxic environment and the same toxic people that nurtured the addiction in the first place.
In order to be healthier the addict has to change her lifestyle. She has to reevaluate her relationships, her goals and her motivations. What’s funny about this is the term “addict.” People may not consider that addiction can also be depression, anxiety, worry, obsession, self-injury, overeating, starvation…all of these unhealthy habits can be nurtured by the wrong environment and the wrong people.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17
This verse from Paul shows how Christians must change their lives. It is not permissible to be a “lukewarm” Christian. What is the point of that? You may as well be an unbeliever again. Nothing is expected from the person who refuses to commit. Believers have to change their lives for Jesus. That’s a part of the deal. Jesus doesn’t want words that express love he wants to see it in our lives. He wants real proof of our love for him which we show through action.
“The Lord says: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.’” Isaiah 29:13
Christians have been instructed to live for Christ which includes suffering for him (Philippians 1:29, 2 Timothy 3:12-13).
“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10
“Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”
‘He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ (Isaiah 53:9)
“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. ‘He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed.’ For ‘you were like sheep going astray,’ (Isaiah 53:4, 5, 6) but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:18-25
Remember that if you suffer for good things, if you suffer for God this is honorable because you are showing your reverence of God. You’re proving that you stand for him. Do not forget that God judges everyone. No man will escape the wickedness that he performed on earth (Matthew 12:36, Psalm 28:4, Romans 2:6). There is no need for anger because no one is getting away with the evil they have done. You can be sure of that.
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5
God teaches us through our suffering and is binding us up to be like his son.
“For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:5
And there are more than this, but Christians must suffer like Christ suffered. The world hates us like it hated Jesus. Even though Christians are rejected, insulted, abused…we must not abandon our task. We have been instructed to preach the Gospel and we must. God can change any heart.
How can we spread the Gospel if we are only friends with believers? That makes no sense. Relationships with unbelievers have to happen in order for this exchange to occur. Believers are to love all people and not just their friends.
“‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.’” Luke 6:32-36, Matthew 5:43-48
So it is good to impression others with information about Jesus. But, at the same time, believers must not divert back to their crooked ways before they were saved.
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:1-5
If the first sentence of the verses above is throwing you for a loop let me explain. The ruler of the kingdom of the air probably means Satan. That’s what I took it to mean. After that the scripture says this same wicked spirit is at work in the disobedient. This is relevant to another part of the Bible when God gave people over to their sins and gave them a spirit of ignorance so that they could not understand God (Romans 11, 2 Corinthians 3:14). When men turned to their evil ways God allowed it, but that does not mean he’s accepted these behaviors.
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Colossians 3:1-10
With all of these things in mind I know that I am in the wrong. Instead of remaining quiet I should defend God. I will be ridiculed and lose friends because of this, but it doesn’t matter. It is far worse to sit there and listen to people talk about the things that are killing them. Even if I am laughed at or regarded as a fool at least I disagreed with their sin. At least I tried to show them how unhappy these things make them. That sting of rejection is quickly forgotten, but the unbearable pain from not speaking up can last for years. For a lifetime.
So as for the title of this post it describes believers and their friendships. Some are fellow sheep (believers) and some are wolves (unbelievers). No matter who is who the believer has a task at hand. And it’s best to be quick about it because tomorrow is no guarantee.
“I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help. I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly.” Psalm 40:10