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By Rev Charles Seet

Text: 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1

The passage for our meditation deals with the subject of the Christian’s relationships with people around him, and how we must be willing to submit to God in this area. In this passage, the apostle Paul addressed the subject of the relationships that the Corinthian believers had with their idol-worshipping friends who were non-Christians. This was a great problem to them, because of the Christians in Corinth lived in the midst of a very worldly, immoral and idolatrous society. This environment had a strong influence on them. Because of this strong influence, the case of immorality in the church could not be dealt with so easily. Because of this influence, there was a dissenting and divisive spirit among some of the members, and some were adopting worldly methods to deal with the problems, like suing one another in the public courts.

 

What the Corinthians needed to do was to renounce all compromise with their pagan, worldly environment. But as long as their non-Christian friends continued to influence them, they could not do this. Hence there was a great need for them to sever the close relationships they had with these people. It is never easy for anyone to break an established relationship. This is why the apostle Paul used the strongest possible argument to convince them to do this – their relationship with God! The argument is that their new relationship with a holy and righteous God demands a radical change in their relationships with their friends who were unbelievers.

The contrast between God and unbelievers is brought out in 5 stark comparisons: Righteousness and Unrighteousness, Light and Darkness, Christ and Belial, the believer and the infidel, the temple of God and idols. These five comparisons are presented in the form of rhetorical questions. The answer to all of them is obvious – None! There can be no fellowship, no communion, no concord, no part and no agreement between these two. Hence our relationship with God demands and change in the way we relate to unbelievers.

When we turned to Christ for salvation we entered into a permanent and unbreakable covenant relationship with Him. We took Him to be our God. And He took us to be His people. And He is a Holy and Righteous God, who will not tolerate any sin. This relationship which we have with God must bring about fundamental changes in the way we relate to others, and especially in the way we relate with non-Christians around us. We may still enjoy each other’s company and conversation for a time, but as we grow in our love for Christ, while most of our non-Christian friends remain unreceptive to the gospel, a painful parting of ways inevitably comes.

Usually, however, the pain of losing close friends is compensated by the joy of making new friends with like-minded Christians in church, or in fellowship groups. We develop new relationships that are closer and more meaningful than the ones we used to have, because there is now an added dimension in the relationship: a spiritual dimension.

But our relationships with the non-Christian world are not over yet, because our daily interaction with people in the course of our work or studies still brings us into contact with them. And God never intended us to isolate ourselves completely from society. In fact the Lord wants us to still be in the world, and to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (as Matthew 5:13,14 tells us). For it is only through the relationships that non-Christians have with us that they will have the opportunity to learn about Christ and be saved.

But while God wants us to be in the world, He also wants us to be careful not to be of the world (John 17:15,16). And what this means ultimately is that we must strike a balance in our relationships with non-Christians. On one hand we must be close enough to them to influence them with our Christian lives, but on the other hand we must not be so close to them as to be influenced by their non-Christian lives. Striking this balance is not an easy thing to do. And we need to study what God’s Word says about these relationships. We are going to look at two important guidelines that we should follow closely in our relationships with non-Christians.

I. Guard yourself from being influenced by them to compromise your loyalty of God.

We must not allow anyone to compromise our relationship with God, even if they are people who are very close to us. The Bible shows us the disastrous results of violating this principle in the life of Solomon: King Solomon with all of his great God-given wisdom could not resist the strong influence of the 700 wives and 300 concubines he married. Most of them were actually gifts to him from neighbouring nations that wanted his favour. But these women brought their pagan idol worship right into Jerusalem and gradually they led Solomon into idolatry.

1 Kings 11:4-6 relates the sad account of Solomon’s spiritual decline: “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father.”

This was one of the saddest turning points in Old Testament history, because it brought the whole nation of Israel from the heights of its golden age of spiritual and material prosperity all the way down into the depths of sinful darkness and destruction. Let this example of Solomon be a strong reminder to us, so that we will not allow ourselves to be influenced to compromise our commitment and loyalty to God through our relationships with non-Christians.

There are some who have the mistaken idea that in order to win non-Christians to Christ, they must identify with them and come down to their level, even to the point of adopting the same kind of appearance, language and worldly lifestyle that they have. They think that this was what the apostle Paul meant when he said in 1 Corinthians 9:22 “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” So, in order to reach out to those who frequent discos and other nite spots, they actually join in with them, going to these places and doing whatever their non-Christian friends do, hoping that this would give them the opportunity to communicate the gospel to them. But what usually happens is the very opposite. The non-Christian asks them, “How is it that you as a Christian can indulge in all these things with us?” This kind of evangelism is known as infiltration, and it does not work.

So please remember this principle: You must not allow any friendship or relationship to compromise your loyalty and commitment to God. If you have a good relationship with a friend who is a non-Christian and it has been going on for some time and you find that all your efforts to influence him for Christ are not producing any results, and you find also that it is starting to have an adverse influence on you spiritually, then you should seriously consider ending the relationship.

When I was a teenager, I had a close friend whom I was very fond of, because we had so much in common. We were always together, studying, eating and playing together. We went through secondary school, pre-U and even NS together. But I was a Christian and he wasn’t. And though I had tried a number of times to share Christ with him, he refused to budge an inch from his Buddhist beliefs. When we became university students I saw him less and less because we were in different campuses. And because I became more involved at that time in a Christian fellowship group and was growing spiritually, I did not have much time for him. I had to turn him down a number of times when he asked me to go for a concert or party. My friend was upset about this and he came and confronted me one evening with another friend. We had a very long heart to heart talk and it finally boiled down to this: He felt that my commitment to Christ was hindering our friendship and I felt that our friendship was endangering my commitment to Christ. And so with heavy hearts, we ended our friendship. It was a painful decision, but it was necessary.

But this raises the question: What if the relationship that is affecting my commitment to God is not just a friendship, but a family bond? What if my parents are the non-Christians who are influencing me against Christ? Then I cannot just leave and separate myself from their influence. Instead I have to resist it. There may be times when issues like ancestor worship, eating food that has been offered to idols, and Chinese funeral rites will come up. And because we love and respect our parents and don’t want to upset them, it might be quite tempting to just do everything they want us to do. Then we must remember the important principle that no matter how much we want to please our loved ones, we cannot compromise our loyalty to God.

One way you can avoid unpleasant confrontations if you come from a non-Christian family is to talk with them plainly about these issues long before critical situations arise. For example, if a Chinese festival is coming, it is good to tell them a few weeks beforehand that you cannot eat the food that will be offered to idols. This will give them time to get used to the idea.

II. Do not become unequally yoked with them

The Scriptures clearly demarcate a line that we must never cross when we develop relationships with non-Christians. Once we cross that line, we become unequally yoked. This term is taken from v.14 of our text –“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?”

If we involve ourselves in relationships that compromise our holiness we would be going against the Lord. This is especially the case in courtship and marriage. This is where you have to be very careful. I say this with great emphasis, because I have known so many fine Christian brothers and sisters who ended up marrying non-Christians, even though they knew full well what the Bible says about unequally yoked partnerships.

The question is often raised, “I know it is wrong to marry a non-Christian, but can I go out for a date with a non-Christian?” Please realise that this is a dangerous thing to do. A Christian friend I knew when I was a university student was very attracted to a tall and handsome classmate who was not a believer. One day he asked her out for a date, and she found it hard to resist his request. In spite of her Christian convictions she went out with him, reasoning to herself that she will use the opportunity to win him to Christ. This ‘missionary’ dating did not lead him to Christ but instead it led them both deeper and deeper into a steady relationship.

Her closest Christian friends all counselled her about the dangers of the relationship, and then in desperation, she asked me to do an evangelistic Bible study with him. She prayed very hard that he would be converted. After about 8 weeks of in-depth Bible study, this tall guy told me that that he now believes in Christ for forgiveness.

You can imagine how overjoyed my friend was when she heard the news. They started going to church together, but did they lived happily ever after? – No they did not! As soon as their relationship became steady enough, he stopped going to church, stopped reading the Bible, stopped praying and professing to be a Christian. On looking back, I realise that his conversion was a false one, because what he wanted was her, not Christ. As she continued her relationship with him, her spiritual life suffered severe backsliding, and the last that I heard is that she has not yet come back to the Lord.

The tragedy of this story is that it is not an isolated incident, but is repeated again and again as time after time single Christian men and women find themselves attracted to non-Christians by a love that is not from God. Probably no committed Christian ever sets out purposely to fall in love with a non-Christian. The relationships start out as friendships or even casual acquaintances.

The critical point when the faith of single Christians is put to the test is when the friendship crosses the line into a dating relationship, a relationship which is exclusive to some extent. Single Christians must be very careful and selective about who they should and should not date. Why? Because for most men and women, some date will eventually lead to marriage. While the purposes of dating go beyond just looking for a marriage partner, the fact is that the majority of marriages begin with a dating relationship. When you regard someone of the opposite sex as your special friend eventually you may say to that someone, “I want to share my life with you. I want to share your values, your goals, your successes and failures. I want to marry you.”

Listen carefully to this: When a Christian deliberately marries a non-Christian, he or she has fallen into two very serious errors: Firstly, the Christian has disobeyed God’s explicit command given in 2 Corinthians 6:14 –“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: . . .” Secondly, the Christian has broken the first of the Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” Because he or she has made an unholy and unsaved sinner an object of greater love than God. He or she has actually mocked God to His face.

As a true believer what should matter most to you is not whether “she is all that you’ve ever wanted” or whether “he is the man of your dreams.” What should matter to you most is whether he or she is the one that God wants you to marry. This is one instance where you must be controlled by your mind, by what you know from the Word of God. You must not allow your heart to take over the control from your mind. Because as Jeremiah 17:9 says, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?”  Now, what should you do if you are already involved in a dating relationship with a non-Christian? Please do not let it continue. Although breaking up will be a painful experience, it is better for you to bear the pain than to grieve the Lord your God.

We must believe that God’s Word should have the final say in all our relationships. And if we believe that, then we must faithfully follow the two guidelines we have studied today about our relationships with the non-Christian world: The first is: Guard yourself from being influenced by them to compromise your loyalty of God. And the second guideline is: Do not become unequally yoked with them. Commit yourself right now to applying these guidelines, for if you do, God will surely bless you and help you, as He promised in 2 Corinthians 6:17,18 -- “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

November 19 & 26 - The End of the World

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 2 Peter 3:10