We return once again to friends. Last time, we considered where to look for our friends and settled that the church, the congregation, is the place to find true friends.
Now, however, we must backtrack to the first article. In that first article, when we said that believers are our true friends, we said also that unbelievers can never be our true friends.
If that is true, this question comes: how should we interact with unbelievers?
If they are not our friends, do we treat them in a friendly manner? May we talk to them casually? Eat with them? Play sports with them? Go out with them? How do we answer all these questions?
Scripture gives us the answer. And that answer is a command.
The command of Scripture for our lives with unbelievers is to be a living witness to our unbelieving neighbours.
What does a witness do?
A witness, having known and seen that something is true, tells others what is true.
As witnesses, we know what is true from the Bible, and, so, tell others what the Bible says. We tell others who God is. We tell others what God requires of us: love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and to love our neighbour as ourselves. We tell others how we are able to follow God’s requirement: Jesus Christ covering our sins from God’s sight and cleansing us from our corrupt natures so that we have a new beginning of obedience.
Christ Himself calls us to be witnesses in Matthew 5:14-16. In that passage, Christ calls us witnesses the light of the world. Christ calls us the light; but He does not mean that we have any light in ourselves. Rather, the light we have comes from God’s Word, because that Word is a lamp unto our feet—yes, a light unto our path (Ps. 119:105). Therefore, when we tell others what God’s Word says, we are being the light of the world.
As witnesses, we know and are sure what God writes in the Scripture is true. Therefore, we tell others what the Scripture says.
What we have said so far, however, does not fully answer our question of how we are to live with unbelievers. We are to be witnesses to them; but how do we go about telling others what is true, as the Bible says?
You may think, “Telling means speaking; so I can be a witness by speaking to others about the Word of God”. You are right; but you do not have to speak to witness. There is more than one way to tell others what our God says in His Word.
We can tell others what our God says by our personal lives. Take something as simple as praying before your meals among your unbelieving classmates/ colleagues. When you pray, you are telling them that God has given you the food on the table. Because He has given you that food, you pray to thank Him for it.
Other actions such as going to church on Sundays, putting in effort in your studies, not swearing or cursing, not listening to ungodly music, and not spending hours upon hours playing video games tell them what God says is important (worship of Him), what is wrong in His opinion (swearing/ cursing, ungodly entertainment), and what He says can become an idol (video games).
There is also the action of coming and preparing for youth group activities on Saturdays. When we make sure that our afternoons are spent among our fellow saints, we are telling our unbelieving neighbours that our greatest delight is in studying God’s Word with the church.
There is, for us boys, in the heat of a game of soccer, the action of forgiving an opponent that has committed a foul against us instead of bearing a grudge. When we forgive, we are telling everyone in the game that forgiving others, not holding a grudge, is what God calls us to do wherever we are.
For you girls, when outward appearances are becoming more important to you; but, at the same time, if your unbelieving female peers think that looking beautiful means showing more flesh through skimpy skirts/dresses and bare-back tops, you make sure you buy dresses and skirts of decent length and tops that cover what ought to be covered. When you do so, you are telling your peers that beauty is not showing off what is on the outside, but a meek and quiet spirit that God thinks highly of (cf. 1 Pet. 3:4).
The point is very simple: We witness by what we do in our lives.
But also, this too: we can tell others what our God says by our response to their lives.
Much of what our unbelieving neighbours do are forbidden by the Word of God. To go back to our examples above, holding grudges and dressing immodestly are rather common in the callings God has placed us in. And I am sure you can think of more things that are a “no-go” in God’s eyes.
Our only response to those things must be a firm “NO.” But how do we tell our unbelieving neighbours this firm “No”?
There is always a verbal response— “This is wrong. I cannot accept this”. But we can also respond in other ways. A frown of frustration when you hear cursing and swearing; leaving the group when gossip starts; remaining silent when others laugh at dirty jokes and scandals—these are some ways to respond to ungodly behaviour.
We are lights in this world, witnesses to our unbelieving classmates and colleagues. Witnessing does not just mean speaking about God and His Word; it means doing what His Word commands, in order to tell others what is the Truth. The question about your witness is: “Do my actions tell my unbelieving classmates (or colleagues) what God’s Word says?”
To witness by our lives and by our response to ungodliness is not easy. It takes wisdom to know the right way to witness at the moment, especially when it comes to responding to ungodliness. Oftentimes, either we end up giving a neutral response to the sin before us; or we get so used to seeing that sin that we do not even respond the right way. We do not need a lot of effort to remember the last time we have failed to be witnesses.
But this is where we go back to friends—our true friends in the church.
Think: if you struggle to be a witness of your faith, your friends that share that same faith with you would have their fair share of struggles. They would know your struggles, and they would know what encouragement God’s Word has for us. They would point you to that Word and strengthen you to be the witness God calls us to be.
Yes, to spend our time and strength in the church is, in itself, a witness to unbelievers. But also, you will only find strength to be a witness when you forge your ties with the church. In the church, among believers, you will find encouragement and exhortation to be a witness in this world.
That shows how important and valuable true friendships are. But, more on that next time, DV.
Written by: Lim Yang Zhi | Issue 41