Choosing Godly Relationships (ATP)
Today we’ll answer the question: How do we know when it’s time to part from those who are not living for God and are living in the world, those who do things that go against the word of God and those who don’t even believe. I know Jesus spent time with the sinners. Today is seems harder and harder to not be surrounded by those who live in the world and not for God but also many of them are people that have maybe been apart of your life for a long time. Can you help define what our relationships with people living in the world or living right should look like?
What a wonderful question because this is something we have all had to experience as we’ve dedicated ourselves to living this born again life. We know according to Romans 2:4, “…that the goodness of God leads you to repentance.” Our first commandment is to love. However, there is much confusion over what love actually looks like. 1 Corinthians 13:6, says love “does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.” Love doesn’t accept and tolerate sin, but rather tells the truth. The book of Romans, sometimes called the ABC’s of faith, has much to say about sin and those things that cause destruction in our lives. I would encourage you to read Romans chapter 1 in its entirety because the Word lists in detail this kind of worldly, sinful living, but let’s look at an important truth found in Romans 1:32, “who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death (remember the wages of sin is death), not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” Notice this, it doesn’t matter if you’re living the same way, if you’re approving of it the Word says here you’re just as guilty. Now what does it look like to approve? It means to think of it as common, to consent to, or to willingly accept. We cannot get comfortable with sin. That’s an important warning.
Years ago, there was a faithful sister in the Lord whose husband passed away after years of being an extreme alcoholic. It had been common for people to bring alcohol into her home and consume it there, because her husband lived that way and everyone knew it. When she was left alone, as a faithful Christian woman, she knew it was wrong to continue to allow this to go on and she had a tough choice to make. She could either willingly accept this in her life or she could boldly stand up for what she knew was right. She chose to lovingly put and end to this behavior by letting these family members and friends know that she wasn’t judging them, but this was her home, she was going to serve the Lord, and alcohol in her home would not be tolerated. Those who truly loved her had to accept that and they did. She’s had years of a peaceful home ever since.
Now let’s look at 2 Corinthians 6:14-15, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?” There’s a difference between loving someone and being yoked to them. Our close intimate relationships, especially those from which we seek counsel or allow to influence our lives, should be with people of like precious faith. But we cannot live in a bubble. We live in this world but we are not of this world. We are also called to reach this world. This is where the Holy Spirit comes into the picture. I’ve often gone to the Lord and I’ve said, “Lord, if I can reach them, keep them close, but if I can’t, let them be peacefully removed.” Many have come and gone in my life as a result.
We have to be careful not to get legalistic. Nearly all of my family members, outside of my home, are unsaved and don’t confess to believe in God at all, let alone Jesus. Most of my colleagues, people precious to me, are in the same boat. In fact, most of the people we encounter on a daily basis are unsaved and live and think like the world. But we are the salt and the light to this lost and dying world. We need to love people without accepting their sin. We need to love people while boldly proclaiming Jesus. We just need to be aware of the influence those people have on our lives.
For instance, I may have an unsaved family member who’s an amazing mechanic or carpenter. It’s not going to hurt me to ask a mechanical or carpentry question and take their advice. But when it comes to raising my children, my counsel will come from those of like precious faith. If I’m going to meet an unsaved family member or friend, I let it be known that it won’t be at a bar or at some nasty movie or worldly concert, but instead it’ll be an innocent lunch or something to that nature. If a friend or family member begins to fight against my faith, my church, my pastors, I let it be known that I will not tolerate those things.
Sin tries to recruit, offense tries to recruit, and the enemy will use even good people, and people you love to try to get you off course if you allow it. Remember the thief comes to steal, to kill and to destroy, and know that a thief is usually sneaky and unsuspecting. Be alert, be aware, keep yourself filled up with the Word and Spirit, and you’ll be able to discern when it’s time to go or it’s time to back away from a person or situation. If you know in your heart that a relationship isn’t right, peacefully remove yourself and be careful not to let emotion be your guide.
Now, finally, to answer the last part of the question, what should a relationship look like with those living rightly? Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” Iron sharpens iron, that is faith sharpens faith. When we spend time around other believers of like mind and faith, we are sharpened! We all know Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” We should be assembling together with other believers more and more as we live in these last days and the world is getting louder and louder. Being together with other believers will mutually encourage and stir up faith. That word exhort means to call to one’s side, as for the purpose of encouragement. Those we spend the most time with should be those who are after the things of God like we are. And you know what I’ve found, that those relationships aren’t based on age, hobbies, experiences, but on a mutual love for Jesus. I have the most amazing people in my inner circle, some of my dearest friends and brothers and sisters in the faith are decades older or younger than me. Our interests naturally speaking might be nothing alike, but we encourage and stir up one another and that’s so precious and so invaluable as we walk out this Christian life.
Love the lost, reach the lost, but guard your heart and faith at all times. Let the Holy Spirit and the Holy Word guide you in all relationships and decisions will be easy for you going forward. Amen?