|March 02, 2006|
by John Fischer
Last week’s devotional on being a friend to those outside the faith instead of just being friendly (February 23, " More Than Friendly") has created a bit of discussion.
One item is easy to clear up. A few folks interpreted "Being friendly is just not going to get anybody into the kingdom of heaven. Being a friend will," as an indication of earning one’s way into heaven. My apologies for the confusion. I was speaking there of the other person’s eternal state, not mine. What I meant was: I stand a greater chance of introducing someone to Jesus by being a friend than by just being friendly. (Of course there is place for being friendly, but being a friend is much more influential.)
A number of you wrote about the usual question around this topic: How close can we get to the world before the world starts to rub off on usí To this I would answer: as close as we can. Indeed, our faith needs to rub up against the world in order to be strong and get stronger. Faith that is never challenged makes for a pretty weak faith.
I have been around Christians long enough to know that keeping oneself from bad influences can easily turn into an excuse for staying away from the world because it’s just too unpleasant being around people who don’t believe the same things we do. I understand that old lifestyles and addictions come into play here, but those so often become excuses to stay isolated instead of barriers to overcome.
A chaplain I know at a Christian college likes to turn this question around. "How come we always default to ‘the-world’s-bad-influence-on-us’ position? Why don’t we ever think in terms of our influence in the world?" Indeed, this would seem to be closer to Christ’s commissioning us as salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13-16). God sent Christ into the world to save it (John 3:16-17), and Christ sends us into the world to tell everyone about Him (John 17:18).
Remember, it’s not about us. And since it’s not about us, we need to get over whatever it is that is keeping us from being in the world and becoming friends with those who need Jesus. And I think Jesus can help with this. In fact, He is standing by with all the resources of heaven to keep us in His hand, and to get us to the place where we can reach out in love to those He came to save.
"My prayer is not that you take them out of the world," Christ prayed, "but that you protect them from the evil one" (John 17:15).
Apparently, God would rather protect us in harm’s way than remove us to a safe place. How about that for adventure?