How to deal with non-Christians is a common problem that all Christians face. This especially comes to bear when a person is born-again. The born-again person is FILLED with the presence of the Holy Spirit. Describing the effects of this is difficult. It is difficult to put into words. It just feels good, and this goodness causes us to see other people, as well as ourselves, in a new light. Predictably, this causes our friends to react in different ways, as they may be unaccustomed or simply unprepared to see ourselves in our "new walk."
Some will act defensively. Some will mock us. They may be overtly harsh, or covert in subtle ways, and sometimes without being even aware of what they are doing. But to the Christian, the response is clear to see.
This is a natural reaction in the sense that God ordered it to be this way. He is the creator, and this is one of the characteristics of his creation. Not originally of course, for in the beginning, Man was made pure in God's image. But, after Adam and Eve ate the fruit off the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, God changed the characteristics of his creation. This is seen in Genesis 3:15
"And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers ..."
The above passage identifies enmity- a deep-seated mutual hatred- between people who stroll through the wide gate, and those of us who squeeze through the narrow one. This is a judgement, irreversibly placed on mankind.
It is understandable that when we Christians face these obstacles we in turn want to turn away from the people placing these stumbling blocks in our path. One night I told some people about my conversion, and I caught some heat. People got defensive. That put me on the offensive. Words flew like arrows, and I learned a lesson. One of the witnesses to this event approached me the next time that they saw me; which was about a week later.
This individual walked up to me and the first words out of their mouth was, "Well, how has it been being all righteous?"
I don't know if there was anything all that wrong in what they said, but the way that it was said came across to me as if I was being mocked.
Now, the whole point of this lesson is to point out that there are two paths that we can take at this point. We can totally turn our backs on these people, or we can be patient and try to convert them over with us. Often, I see Christians taking the first path- the easy way. It is easy to just cut people off, and start sitting with a new group, etc. It is DEFINITELY more problematic to hang in the same circles, once we start seeing and hearing things in a new light.
And this general issue involves character, association, and ultimately judgment. People really misunderstand the scriptures pertaining to judging others. We are NOT supposed to judge another one's heart, for it is easy to make a false judgement about the heart; nor are we to judge by condeming them- "Old Joe is going to Hell, etc." What we have to do constantly though, is judge behaviors. BEHAVIORS are fairly easy to judge. As Christians, if we see people sitting around with needles sticking in their arms, etc., we need to judge their behavior accordingly, and distance ourselves from their BEHAVIORS. But if we run into those people at the store or work, or have other opportunities to spread the Word to them, we need to take those opportunities and counsel or witness to them in some sort of way. Afterall, behaviors can be changed. The Apostle Paul is proof of that.
For me, it has been difficult at times. Some might even see me as taking path number one to some degree, but really I haven't- I still sprinkle my time around to the same people as before. I may not do it as much as before, but I haven't abandoned anyone. But it is hard. About a couple of years ago, I started a process of refraining from using the Lords name in vain- particularly saying GD. As I recently began the final steps of my conversion, I have 99% conquered this particular sin. Of course, the people around me haven't. Some use the words habitually; as pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs. Their typical conversations go something like this:
"Yup, we went to the GD lake, then we caught some GD fish, then we put em' in the GD livewell, then we brought em' home and cleaned them GD MF'ers..."
And, up until just recently, when they talked like this- slandering and defiling my Gods name- it burned a hole in me. I wanted to jump up and start pummeling their heads. Now, it is actually easier to bear. I am more prone now to kind of shake my head and pity them- or walk off. And sometimes I do walk away. But the important thing is that I have not totally abandoned these souls. As long as I share SOME time with them, I can have opportunities to plant some little seeds. Practically all of our conversations present an opportunity to tie whatever we are talking about into God. I can not plant them seeds if I am not there.
And, taken out of context, there is scripture to support both methods of dealing with non-converts. Some say to "have nothing to do with them", while others talk of "patience and understanding... gentle, etc."
The important thing is that we make sure that abandonment is a last resort- IF it is deemed necessary to help our walk. It is important to turn ones life around, and place everything in God's hands, instead of our own. Our salvation is very important. But so is the salvation of everyone else.
We have to dedicate some time to ministry, and that means not preaching to the choir. We have to get out and walk that path, wherever it may take us. It may take us through the slop trough, or past the pit, and past people who are probably reprobate. Still, if we only concern ourselves with ourselves, we fall victim to other sins- selfishness; pride; abandonment.
Drop your pride. Bite the bullet. Be patient. Make a qualified effort. Be a good witness for the Lord.
Matthew 5:14-16 Jesus said, "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
by Charles Lance Bailey 2003©
"leading people to Jesus Christ"
(scripture quotes - NIV)
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