Not many Americans would call themselves atheists; only about 3% according to Pew Research. But that doesn’t count the practicing atheists. I’m thinking about all the people who religiously go to church on Sundays but live the other six-and-a-half days as though heaven is empty and the Bible is fiction.
I’m not even talking about secret sins that weaken our testimony. Think about all those honest, open conversations between Bible believers, those of us who call ourselves Evangelicals.
Surely, we can all agree that friends must be able to speak honestly to each other, and without condemnation. But when another follower of Christ confides in me that he’s undermining his jerk supervisor at work, what am I supposed to do with the New Testament idea of honoring God by the way I treat those in authority? (1 Peter 2:19) Atheism says the boss is a loser: he’s got it coming. But a godly friend ought to sympathize, “Man, I understand why you’re so angry. But I’m wondering if there’s a place for your faith in all of this. What do you think?” No condemnation there!
When a married woman confides that her conversations with the new single guy at the office have gone well beyond innocent flirtation, what’s a friend in the faith to do? Atheism says we’re living in a whole new world: this seems harmless enough. But a friend who is also a believer has a different take. “Can we pray about this together? It may feel harmless right now, but are you running away from sexual immorality, or tip-toeing toward it?” (1 Corinthians 6:18) True friendship does require honesty, right?
In this week’s message on dealing with bad bosses, Pastor Cole reminded us how often we give each other a pass for doing evil. Instead of coaching our fellow saints with faith and wise counsel, we tend to shrug and suggest we’re all only human. But that’s what atheists believe. Followers of Jesus counter with 2 Corinthians 5:17. “I am a new creation in Christ: the old has gone, the new has come!” Saints encourage each other to set our affections on this above, not the things of this world.
Suggest to a child that he’s not as capable of a B-average, and you’ll soon have a D student on your hands! Tell a teenager it’s impossible to resist fornication, and she’ll soon agree with you wholeheartedly. Imply to a Christian friend under fire that nobody seriously expects to be holy all the time, and you’ll soon have an unholy friend in an ungodly dilemma.
Being the salt of the earth requires more than merely influencing pagans and unbelievers next door. It means we are willing to rub off on our friends at church as well.
To catch this week’s message, click Take this Job and Love It.
Lift up the Cross!