By: Charles Itseghosimhe
Human beings are social creatures. We all want friends (business acquaintances, neighbours, room-mates, course mates, school mates, mentors, counsellors, leaders…). Friendship is important to everyone. We seek friends very early in childhood, and if we are lucky, some of those early friendships may stay with us for life! King Solomon wrote that a friend loves at all times…. (Proverbs 17:17). We want to be an important part of a social group composed of others like us.
UNDERSTANDING OUR FRIENDSHIP WITH THE WORLD
Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:9-10, through the Holy Spirit revealed that as long as we are living in this world, it is impossible for us to be without friends in the world. Knowing that we will have friends in the world, does not exempt us from reflecting the transformation which Christ has brought to us. Remember that Daniel lived and worked in Babylon; Joseph lived and worked in Egypt; yet they were able to bring out the God-like life in the community.
We must strive to be the nicest people in the community—polite, respectful, loving, kind, diligent, disciplined, trustworthy, compassionate, and friendly, even to those with whom we disagree (neighbours, bosses, employers, leaders, colleagues…).
In the world, we may have opportunities to be part of groups which offer us social and material benefits. But, there are some friendships with the world which we must not make! Since, to remain part of that group, sometimes, we would have to participate in worldly activities condemned by godly precepts.
This means that not all friendships are created equal. Some friendships produce a very positive and godly impact on us, while others produce a very negative and ungodly impact. When a friendship produces a very negative impact, it is regarded as a toxic and a worldly one.
In 2 Corinthians 6:14–17a, it is clear that the highest good for every Christian and for every congregation of the Lord’s church is doing God’s will! Once a worldly friendship, hinders or weakens that ability to do God’s will then God desire for us is to come out from that friendship and be separate. We must understand that not all friendships have God’s blessings!
Therefore, we must pray and learn to refuse and refuse to participate in ungodly religious services, activities and practices with the world (because of our friendship with them) because they would cause us to embrace immorality, ungodliness and endorse error.
Friendship with God is more important than friendship with man. Christians are engaged in a war against sin and Satan! We must reject entangling friendships which prevent us from fighting the good fight on the side of the Lord!
In 1 Kings 22:41–43, we read of the story of Jehoshaphat, an extremely good king of Judah. Jehoshaphat initiated numerous reforms to bring the people back to God. …His heart took delight in the ways of the Lord; moreover he removed the high places and wooden images from Judah (2 Chronicles 17:6).
Ahab, by devious or dishonest means, got his daughter married to Jehoshaphat’s son (2 Kings 8:16-18). Compromise with the world is a danger because of its subtlety. Ahab had a plan. He knew if they had a very strong shared bond, it will be easier for Jehoshaphat to tolerate his evil practices. Jehoshaphat naively agreed to Ahab’s scheme. As soon as the alliance was made, we read that Jehoshaphat promised the godless Ahab that …“I am as you are, and my people as your people; we will be with you in the war” (2 Chronicles 18:3).
Jehoshaphat then allowed the rebuilding of the high places and he stopped removing the wooden images. He brought grief to the kingdom of Judah because of his unwise, unholy alliances. Except for God’s mercy, Jehoshaphat would have been killed. We must be very careful. The world must not be our first option to run to in times of difficulties, because the world, in some cases, is smarter than us; very cunning and crafty; we can be outsmarted real quick! (Luke 16:8 So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light). And so Jehoshaphat went into battle with the godless Ahab against the word of God’s prophet. Except for God’s grace he would have been killed!
THE CONSEQUENCES OF OUR FRIENDSHIP WITH THE WORLD
Friendship with the world that causes us to compromise with the world, whether in doctrine, morals, or godliness, has disastrous consequences. It can cause a lot of damages – spiritually, emotionally, mentally, even physically. It hurts everybody and everything.
The damage could be that:
- Our loyalty to God is transferred to the bond of that friendship. The friendship with the world means that the things of this world are more important to us than God Himself. In 2 Timothy 4:9-11, we read of Demas who had once been a fellow-labourer; a faithful worshipper and dependable but the world meant too much to Demas, so he abandoned the work and will of God.
- It creates a war with God. Nothing hurts the cause of God like us who are supposed to be His children living no differently from those in the world. It causes us to grieve the Holy Spirit of God…. (Ephesians 4:30). James 4:4 …Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
- It causes wars, factions, divisions within the church. Where do we think the wars and fights come from among us, as members of the church? Is it not because more of us have made friendship with the world? Is it not because we have embraced the evil practices (gossips, malice, strife, violence) of the world and we display them within ourselves? (James 4:1-10). Many people become dissatisfied with what the world has to offer, so they come to the church to see what the church has to offer—but far too often all they find is more of the world!
- We lose our strong will to resist pressure. We struggle to say “no” to an ungodly request, an unprincipled offer, or a practice that is not praise-worthy especially when the worldly side is so pushy, demanding, filled with crafty criticism, using negative feedback and other emotionally manipulative ways. The plan and idea are to coerce us. In such a friendship, we either never or rarely challenged the world over their sin. Lot found himself in this kind of scenario. He could not challenge the Sodomites over their sin (Genesis 19).
- We are pushed to do things that we are uncomfortable with, even things we know are wrong. Sometimes, for the younger Christian, it could be that we are pressured into their kind of speech pattern that contradicts good morals, becoming high-minded, spending money we don’t have. Yes, we can compromise to the point where we become just like the world in their evil practices.
- We end up with feeling trapped, unhappy and confused especially when we know that the friendship truly damages us but we may not know what to do about it. Sometimes, we are afraid to break off friendship. There is this tendency that we may believe if we are bold for God in such worldly friendship, we would lose these friends and our ability to prosper, so we will remain quiet. At that point, we may see silence as a reasonable opportunity cost. We never help sinners by compromising godly standards to help them accomplish their purposes. Whatever advantages such worldly friendships seem to confer on us, are never really advantages in the long run! We are disadvantaged, that is, the worldly side wants to take advantage of us.
- In some instances, particularly if there has been intimacy or romantic feelings, we may feel unable to break away from such friendship and this continues to kill our consciences.
- The world might not take or will stop taking us seriously when it comes to faith, righteousness and morals. We will be unable to really spiritually affect them in a positive and godly manner. In the case of Lot (Genesis 19), he had so little spiritual influence, he barely affected his family. He lost his wife to worldliness and love for Sodom. Even when Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law about God’s judgment, they did not listen to him, because to his sons-in-law he seemed to be joking (Genesis 19:14). He also lost his daughters who eventually raped him. This is true of us as well. Because our language, hobbies, clothing, entertainment, goals, and morals, are no different from the world’s, nobody takes us seriously when it comes to godliness. This was what Christ pointed out in Matthew 5:13“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. The idea is that we may still be recognized as members of the church or possibly Christians but we have lost our effectiveness by compromise.
- We lose our intimacy with God. We are discouraged from offering God more of our best. We no longer feel the guilt and tension of keeping back the best portions (our time, our money, our energy, our skill, our resolution) for ourselves.
HOW CAN WE COME OUT OF OUR FRIENDSHIP WITH THE WORLD?
We must recognize the importance of our friendship. We may have great opportunities in business, social life, or religion. However, we must not let such opportunities lead us to make friendships with the world, to compromise our Christianity, or to be placed in a position where such things are likely to happen. We must avoid friendships with the world which lead to the acceptance of worldly behaviour. The Christian is not to love the world (1 John 2:15–17), but is to be separate from the world and worldliness (James 1:27; Romans 12:1, 2).
When our friendship with the world becomes toxic, it’s time to take action! We must agree that something needs to change. We can’t afford to wait and hope the situation will change itself—here are some practical steps we can start taking right now:
- Recognize the problem without condemning the person. Pray and make efforts to understand the worldly side or person. If strength permits, try to recognize an underlying cause of their being toxic or worldly. If our weaknesses might have a way of interfering with this plan, then we must be careful and courageous to desert that friendship and keep praying for the worldly side. Clinging on to or staying in such friendship will only continue to damage us.
- Take responsibility. If we are in friendship with the world where we get damaged, chances are that we allowed it; we embraced the friendship by giving our consent. We have to take responsibility. We must not cast blame on the worldly side. Casting of blame does not help us to be free from the damage of the friendship. It is unproductive. It’s up to us to change it! Let’s put our energies and faith on what we can do to break free from such friendship. It is sadder to break some worldly friendship-ties but Jesus taught us that is sometimes necessary (Cf. Matthew 10:34–37). To be part of God’s chosen people, Ruth had to leave her kinsmen and her religion (Ruth 1:16,17); if she had not done so, she would not have been an ancestor of our Lord (Matthew 1:5). If early Christians had not been willing to break worldly friendship-ties and family ties, there would have been no Christian – no Christianity – no church!
- Set healthy boundaries. We need to strike the balance of being in the world but not of the world. All balanced friendships require personal boundaries. These boundaries are guidelines or limits that define how we interact with others, and how we allow other people to treat us. They are defined by our core values, which say a lot about us. This means that for us to be able to set good personal boundaries, we must have developed and keep developing godly values. These good values help us to have the inner strength to say no to offers that could damage us; help us to build strong will; help us to flee from evil appearance the moment we recognize that the worldly side or situations are unsafe. We must pray and learn to take decisive actions to prevent ourselves from being damaged by such friendship.
- Create friendships that first and foremost motivates you to faithfulness to God, appropriate godly success and growth.
The world in its practices and friendship is very deceptive. We must be wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16).
If God says that our friendship with the world makes us His enemy (James 4:4), then we must by every power of Christ available to us come out of such friendship. The challenge and command has been given to us – it is up to us to accept and obey.