Worldly Friends – Part 3

This month we continue with the topic of how we teach our children to love others who choose a worldly path but not embrace what they are doing. The previous Dad’s Corners can be read here.

We instruct our children best by our example. Our “walk” prepares the way for them to receive what we teach. Therefore, we could ask ourselves how we, as parents, are demonstrating the love of Jesus toward the worldly “Christians” we encounter while not being influenced by the sin in their lives.

Paul said in Philippians 3:17, “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.” Paul was commanding us to note those who live a Christ-honoring life and follow them as examples. He also encouraged us to notice those who do not have a godly life and come alongside them for the purpose of restoring them. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).

Paul is directing that we would do two things with the information we learn from observing people’s lives. We look to those whose walk is Christ-honoring as examples, but we work toward restoring those who have a sinful, worldly lifestyle being careful that we ourselves aren’t influenced by their sin. Therefore, we can learn from Paul’s godly example as to how he lovingly attempted to help believers who were making bad choices.

Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 2:4 express his broken heart and concern for the Corinthian believers. “For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you” (2 Corinthians 2:4).

“And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved” (2 Corinthians 12:15). Paul demonstrated his love by ministering with a willingness to suffer. Even at the risk of the Corinthians rejecting his leadership, Paul rebuked their conduct and did not back down. He was saying in verse fifteen that the more he loved them by speaking the truth in love, the less he was loved by them. Usually, the more someone is loved, the more he loves in return.

People want to be accepted and loved, and Paul was no different as noted by the fact that he mentioned that the Corinthians were loving him less. Paul, led by the Holy Spirit, didn’t come to the Corinthians to win their acceptance through funny pulpit stories and “I’m okay, you’re okay” talk. “When I therefore was thus minded, did I use lightness? or the things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be yea yea, and nay nay?” (2 Corinthians 1:17). Paul told them the truth about their sinful, worldly conduct and God’s thoughts on it even though he knew it was costing him the feelings of love the Corinthians should have had for him. “But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay” (2 Corinthians 1:18).

A good doctor will tell the patient what his real condition is and what is necessary to restore him to health. Paul demonstrated in the Epistles that he was a good spiritual doctor because he was willing to directly address the bad news of their spiritual need. “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” (Ephesians 4:15).

The Greek word for love in Ephesians 4:15 is agape and is well defined in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Paul’s love fits the criteria that is set forth in these verses. He was definitely kind and patient. He wasn’t proud as he exhorted them, but rather he was honest and direct.

In Ephesians we find another of the many examples in the New Testament of Paul speaking the truth in love to those in his flocks by exhorting them to stop living a worldly lifestyle. “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness” (Ephesians 4:17-19).

Paul has set forth the example for believers as to how we love worldly believers, and we are the example for our children. Do we speak the truth in love to those who are worldly and help them to see their condition before the Lord Jesus? We may not be in a position of spiritual authority over our Christian friends, but we are still able to admonish one another in love. “And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another” (Romans 15:14).

In the e-mails I receive, it often appears that people prefer to “wink” at the worldliness in others’ lives than to risk the possibility of losing their friendship or appearing to be “holier than thou.” This is generally stated in the context of a parent writing and expressing concern about the influences on his children from worldly families and friends. Rather than offend a brother by bringing up worldliness in his life or his family’s lives, the parent will allow his children to be in jeopardy of worldly influences.

Ignoring sin is more comfortable than admonishing. “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” (Proverbs 27:17). When two pieces of steel are used to sharpen each other, friction results. A true friend will welcome and receive an admonishment. However, “A scorner loveth not one that reproveth him: neither will he go unto the wise” (Proverbs 15:12). Only when a scorner repents will he come to realize that the one rebuking him was acting out of love.

Could it be that church discipline is so rare today because few are willing to take a chance of offending any one, and therefore, sin is tolerated? If brother would admonish brother in an ongoing, casual way—as iron sharpeneth iron—I believe there would far less need for church discipline because worldly, sinful lifestyles would be dealt with before they became major sins.

Worldliness is rampant among believers today. Similarly to the way a cold bug spreads in the physical realm, one worldly family spends time with a godly family and spiritually infects that family with their worldliness. It takes the deep love of a godly family, and a willingness to be rejected, to try to help a worldly family by speaking the truth in love. An evidence of our love for others is when we are willing to suffer loss of fellowship as a result of their not appreciating an admonition. Are we more concerned about their spiritual health or our desire for friendship? In a time of political correctness and tolerance, may we choose to be courageous and love others enough to encourage them in a closer walk with the Lord Jesus.

In this process, it is important that we share with our children concerning these interactions that we are having with worldly brethren. We want them to know biblically why we are speaking the truth in love—what the sin is, what Scripture says about it, and what the outcomes will be for those who choose not to repent. We desire that our children would understand the consequences of sin, and then abhor sin and a worldly lifestyle. This is an important part of our children learning to love the sinner and hate the sin rather than embracing it.

As our children see that our hearts are broken with concern for others and that we are willing to speak the truth in love, they are learning to love those for whom Christ died. When we share with them the truth of the Scripture, they will understand the seriousness of not embracing the world. If speaking the truth in love causes a distancing of a friendship, our children will observe our example of choosing fellowship with the Lord Jesus as being more important than worldly friends who will compromise our walk with Jesus. We will continue this next month.