by Jesse L. Smith
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For years while working at Thermo-Fisher Scientific I would frequent the local Starbucks to spend time in the Word during lunch. It wasn’t as if I was trying to flaunt my faith, but I had learned from past experience that my time spent in the Word seemed to be more blessed when I was in a public place. Often during these times I would feel the presence of God so strongly that it would leave me in a deeply relaxed trance like state – and I must admit that it felt so good that I literally became addicted to God’s Word. On one such occasion during lunch one of my female coworkers happened to pass by and laughed, “Oh – here with your girlfriend again?” I knew that my love for God would be a serious barrier to my relationship prospects, and I became somewhat of an anomaly to my mostly unbelieving coworkers.
It was during these years that I began to wrestle with the question of relationships – I had always believed in the concept of being ‘equally yoked’ with other believers, but in a land of no opportunity it was easy to begin reevaluating my position. Wasn’t it possible to genuinely love someone who was not a Christian? One of my coworkers had challenged me with this very question, and my answer was that love is never self serving and always looks to the interests of others. Although a Christian may ‘love’ someone that is not a believer, it would not be in the best interest of either person to pursue a relationship. The action of True Love therefore in that circumstance would be to avoid a relationship altogether. My response however was purely theoretical, and I didn’t really understand why it was not in the best interest of either person to be involved in such a relationship.
After all, didn’t God send Jesus to die for an unbelieving world so that we could be in a relationship with Him? Jesus was Love incarnate, but the world’s response to that love was to kill him. In order to really understand why a Christian should not be in a relationship with an unbeliever, I needed to understand that True Love can never be reciprocated by the world. Not only can that love not be reciprocated, but Jesus warned His disciples, “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.” -1 John 3:13 Why should the world have hated Jesus? Jesus was not condemning or self righteous, and only lived to give His entire life on earth. The life of Jesus was the perfect model for what love should truly be – and yet the prophet Isaiah spoke of Him, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” –Isaiah 53:3
The reason the world hated Jesus is because of the problem of condemnation. Jesus never condemned anyone, but he was also Light by his very nature – and Light has a way of revealing sin. When people were around Jesus, they felt the weight and condemnation of their own sin in their lives – and naturally lashed out at Jesus in an attempt to justify themselves. When we have unrepentant sin in our lives, darkness serves as a cloak that allows us to feel good about ourselves, and we gravitate towards it because we feel comfortable there. However when the light shines into that darkness we are left feeling naked and exposed and our natural response is to curse the light for doing that to us. Jesus spoke of this to his disciples saying, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” –John 3:19
It is possible to love an unbeliever or even a Christian with unrepentant sin their lives - and we should! But in order to have the kind of fellowship and intimacy that God intended us to have in relationships - you must be with someone who is also walking in the Light. 1 John 1:7 says, “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.”
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