Leading By Example

Christian elitism: How picky should we be when choosing our friends

Honestly, the short answer, is very, we should be incredibly particular when it comes to who we spend our time with

However, to avoid being self-righteous and/or alienating our friends, co-workers, school friends, etc…, we need to carefully judge who we spend our time with, and for how long, as not every Christian friendship leads us toward any kind of spiritual growth, while on the other hand, many of our worldly friendships may seem great, but only serve to keep us from maturity as they often have nothing to do with spiritual growth or spreading the gospel–so how do we choose our friends without seeming like some kind of self-righteous elitist?

Introduction

Rather than go into a boring, long-winded monologue about how spending too much time with unspiritual people is bad, or talk about how following unproductive, worldly social pursuits only serves to distract us, I want to instead focus on showing why it is important to make our choices in friends based on our identities as Christians

Yes, yes, I know, you may have been expecting an article filled with finger wagging or statements that allow us to comfortably rationalize how all of our non-Christian friendships are actually beneficial in some way, but this is way more important

Also, this article has a mixture of things meant for both the spiritually young, and the mature, but the entire message applies to all of us, as we should seek to honor God with every area of our lives, including our friendships

We Talk About Our Calling And Identity As Christians, But Do We Actually Live According To Them

Now, I want to be clear this article is not about encouraging anyone to be snobs or to run out and saddle up their self-righteous high horses, but a discussion on how we should stop evaluating our friendships, or anything worldly, from a place of “how much of a worldly influence is still considered okay”, and instead, focus on these situations with a mindset of, “how can I seek God’s will and glory more than I currently am”, as that is the way we will approach life when our identities are centered on our relationship with God

If we truly love God, we will not have a hard time balancing our pursuit of him with our worldly life, as we will be so focused on honoring God there will be little room for much else

Matthew 22:37
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind

Matthew 6:28-33
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well

But what does this have to do with our identities as Christians, let alone how we choose our friends?

We Cannot Understand Our Identities As Christians If We Do Not Understand How We Are Called To Live

Alright, this is total rocket surgery, but there is no way we can understand what our Christian identities are unless we understand how God commanded us to live

I know, crazy right?

Sadly, for many, the extent of their godly identity only goes so far as embracing the promise of God’s blessings, forgiveness, mercy, etc…, but their Christian identities do not also include God’s call to obedience, evangelism, self-sacrifice, and to lead holy lives that honor him in every way–oops!

Romans 1:5
Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake

(Note how Paul says being a Christian involves “the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake”, as simple faith without corresponding obedience does nothing to show our gratitude for God’s sacrifice for us, let alone honor his holy, righteous character in a way that gives him glory)

Matthew 28:18-20
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age

(This is an incredible passage, as we have all read Jesus’ instructions to go into the world to make disciples, but look at the reason why, as Jesus clearly says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore…”, as he was not just saying it is a good idea to do this, he was reminding us that he has “All authority in heaven and on earth”, so it is not like this command is optional based on whether we feel like listening to some random dude or not–he has “All authority in heaven and earth”!)

John 15:12-14
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command

(Uh, before we run around calling ourselves the friends of God while still holding onto all kinds of sin in our lives, we should pay attention to what Jesus taught about this, as we are only his friends if we do what he commanded, which is to love each other as selflessly as he loved us–yikes!)

2 Peter 3:10-11
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives

(Remember God’s promise to return for us? Then do not overlook Peter’s instructions on how to conduct ourselves while we wait, as we are to “live holy and godly lives”, showing our respect for God in a manner that honors the calling we have received)

There are tons of verses like this we could look at, so it is important to keep the verses above in mind when deciding who our friends should be, as not all Christians, let alone worldly people, work towards achieving God’s righteousness in their lives, work to love others selflessly in ways that require both sacrifice and humility, nor do they look for opportunities to serve others or evangelize

Which brings us to the next point…

Since They Are So Rare, Do We Even Understand What The Value Of Good Christian Friendships Really Are

Honestly, most of us have no idea how awesome Christian friendships can be, mainly because we have never experienced them

Sadly, this is usually because we do not have the right people in our lives, or because we are not the right person in other people’s lives

Yep, I am calling us out

I do not say this to condemn anyone, but consider how we are told to encourage one another towards love and good deeds, for the very same purpose Peter addressed in the last verse above, which is to build ourselves, and one another up in our relationship with God in preparation to meet him

Do your Christian friendships revolve around spiritual growth or do they revolve around worldly conversations and social activities that have little or nothing to do with God

Hebrews 10:24-25
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching

Quite honestly, in our Christian social circles, many of us have occasional discussions about God, but these friendships generally do not involve encouraging one another to live in more loving, righteous ways, as we often just put on a, “Hi, everything is wonderful with me, how are you? Wonderful? That is great!” act as if we are afraid to say what is really going on with us–we are told to do the exact opposite of this as Christians

Ephesians 4:25
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body

Also, when was the last time we spoke to any of our Christian friends about embarrassing, difficult or long-standing sins we struggle with for the purpose of being held accountable, and to receive healing prayers–not often!

James 5:16
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed

Edifying Christian friendships like these are not common as they require humility, trust, respect, vulnerability, as well as an individual, and shared desire to see God’s presence increase in each other’s lives

Without these determined, ongoing commitments guiding our friendships, the value of any Christian relationship greatly diminishes

Further to this, we need to be honest with ourselves about whether we are serious in our walk with God or not

*crickets*

This may sting, but if we are not genuinely seeking God, we are going to gravitate towards others who are equally as lazy, and/or disinterested, as we will not want to be pushed towards godly living beyond what we are already comfortable with

Yeah, ouch, but true, as very few people want “that guy/girl” in their circle of friends, prodding them to do things they do not want to interrupt their comfort levels over, and even less people welcome finger wagging of any kind, however good natured or necessary those warnings may be

Yes, I said necessary, as sometimes we just do not want to live according to how the Bible teaches, and we need some reminders

2 Peter 1:12-13
So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body

We often forget, or willingly overlook, how part of being a good Christian friend is not turning a blind eye to one another’s areas of weakness, as we know these things separate us from God, preventing us from ever having true intimacy with him

John 14:21
Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them

(Jesus made it very clear the only way to have true intimacy with God was by keeping his commands, he was not exactly vague about this!)

Proverbs 15:29
The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous

1 Peter 3:12
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil

(It is important to understand Peter is talking to a body of believers when saying this, he is not speaking to non-Christians, and he is also quoting a verse from the OT nonetheless, which shows how God’s character regarding our sin has not changed between the covenants–people need to stop trying to throw out the OT when it does not fit with how they want to view God’s personality)

Psalm 34:15-16
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to blot out their name from the earth

Isaiah 59:2
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear

Matthew 18:15-17
If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector

(Lovingly, of course!)

Even though beneficial Christian friendships are not easy to come by, there is good news!

Good Christian Friendships Should Start With Us, Not Other People

Thankfully, we have the ability, and responsibility to create these types of relationships ourselves by being the first ones to open up about our struggles, sharing our fears, temptations, and growth areas we are humbly working on, and live in a way that infectiously demonstrates God’s character, both in holiness and love, so people are drawn to it, as even Christians need a reminder of this sometimes

1 Peter 3:15
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have

Not to mention, we can start conversations about all the amazing things God has been showing us in the Bible recently, and also provide ideas for ways we can love one another, evangelize, and do good deeds to glorify God before mankind

Oh yeah, you actually need to read your Bible once in a while, as well as do good works to make this work

Just saying!

Matthew 5:14-16
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven

Sharing, and leading by example like this is not easy for most of us, but these direct, God-centered interactions serve as a catalyst for growth, not only for us, but those around us as well

Stepping outside of our comfort zone is one of the fastest ways to grow, both emotionally and spiritually, as we often do not know how powerful God is in our lives until we allow him to work

With all of this in mind, when we consider how amazing Christians friendships can be, it makes our non-beneficial Christian relationships, and worldly friendships seem much less important, as having discussions around where we ate, what we did at work, who is dating who, what we clothes we bought, etc… is so unimportant when compared to things that draw us closer to God!

Now, I want to be clear I am not advocating we go through our list of Christian friends and tell them we cannot be their friend because they are not holy enough for us, quite the opposite

In fact, we need to focus on helping one another grow, which also causes us to grow in the process, as it is important to help each other out of love, not point fingers at anyone for not walking intimately with God

However, and it is a big however, if our Christian friends genuinely do not want to grow, in preference of willingly hold onto selfish or sinful ways, and have no desire to work towards greater levels of righteousness, and intimacy with God, we need to pray, and ask God for help evaluating how much time we should be spending with them

This may sound harsh to some, but we have to understand even a little quiet time with God is more beneficial for us than a life time of empty social interactions that have nothing to do with him, as those kind are generally just distractions that take up a lot of time, energy, and focus

Psalm 84:10
Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere

Also, we need to remember Paul was beyond clear that we should not associate with Christians who openly, and unapologetically live sinfully, as they are blatantly rejecting God’s righteousness for the sake of their preference for sin

1 Corinthians 5:11
But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people

Also, remember what Paul wrote when he was describing the call we have received through the gospel, as it involves “the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake“, as our obedience, and the way we live before others, has a huge impact on how the world, and other Christians view God, as we have the ability to give his reputation a good or bad name by how we act, both toward believers, and non-believers

Romans 1:5
Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake

Okay, all of this covers how to navigate Christian friendships, but how are we supposed to handle non-Christian relationships since we are supposed to evangelize?

“But I Use My Worldly Friendships To Spread The Gospel!”

Oh yeah, I totally believe you!

All that time you spend with non-Christian friends eating dinner, watching movies, clubbing, gossiping, shopping, and doing whatever else, is totally leading your non-Christian friends to God, even though you never mention his name, that must be super effective, why did I not think of that!

/endSarcasm

Regardless of how long we have been Christians, one of our greatest challenges is to do away with as much of our old selves as possible, as we do not become new creations overnight without any effort

Part of this renewal process includes learning how to handle the influences associated with our pre-existing non-Christian friendships, professional relationships, etc…, as we want to make the most of every opportunity we have available to share the gospel, but still manage to keep ourselves from going astray

1 Corinthians 15:33
Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character

Colossians 4:5-6
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone

However, for many of us, rather than serving as opportunities to share the gospel, a lot of the non-Christian friendships we have only serve to keep some form of attachment to our old lives, as we often use these friendships to partake in or validate behavior our non-Christian friends, let alone God, would probably not look kindly on

I know nobody has ever done this, but a lot of us trot out a completely different set of morals when we are around our Christian, and non-Christian friends

/eyeRoll

Also, we are told not to judge anyone outside the body of believers for their sin, as that creates all kinds of self-righteous weirdness, but we are not supposed to surround ourselves with sinful influences either, as that is often misconstrued as condoning people’s behavior in ways we did not intend

1 Corinthians 5:9-13
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside

We often overlook how the enemy tries to draw us into unfruitful friendships, and activities with unspiritual people, but they are smart about it

Most often, they have us justify our behavior by rationalizing that we are somehow not affected by our surroundings, or that we have the chance to represent the gospel in some way that makes sense in our head, but the results of these efforts should prove their worth without any need for justification

For example, when was the last time we were able to bring even one friend to church, let alone to spiritual intimacy with God, because we got drunk with them at a club?

…anyone?

*crickets*

(Also, what are you doing getting wasted at a club anyway…?)

We are of course told not to reject the world, or judge anyone outside the church, but, based on the values, and benefits of Christian friendships we discussed previously, we need to objectively ask ourselves if we are really contributing anything godly to our non-Christian friendships, as the answer is often no

Since the enemy wants to fill our lives with as many unspiritual influences as possible, we need to guard how, and for what amount of time we interact with non-Christians, making sure this is done in a way that allows us to remain credible, loving witnesses on God’s behalf, without being self-righteously weird

Nothing damages God’s reputation more than a hypocrite who professes to love God but denies him in the way they live

Titus 1:16
They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him

It is honestly baffling how fiercely many Christians defend their extensive, time-consuming worldly friendships they contribute nothing spiritual to, for reasons that may sound noble or good on the surface, but do not reflect the hearts, or actions of those who are passionately seeking to glorify God or lead others to him

“I may not share my faith, but I preach the gospel with the way I act”

(Do not make me ask why you were “up in da club getting drunk” again, I mean honestly)

Just like with our Christian friends, the best way to bring others to God is to share our testimonies, as well as talk about the benefits of walking with God, since our relationship with him is ongoing, and we are constantly learning new things, and growing every day

Also, it is important to find out what our non-Christian friends are struggling with as well, as we can hopefully give them insight into how God helped us in the same, or similar areas

We should also use our best judgment when doing this, as not every problem or issue in our life should be shared with our non-Christian friends, as some things may seem nitpicky to people who are not seeking to live according to God’s righteousness, and may just come across as annoying

Also, in closing, I wanted to address a scripture many people point to when interacting with non-Christians

Matthew 10:14
If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your fee

Jesus spoke these words to the Apostles when he sent them out to spread the gospel, as they went out performing miracles, casting out evil spirits, and spreading the gospel in a way that represented it accurately

Based on this, we cannot reject others when they do not accept a gospel we do not personally represent well, as we have to make sure we are doing everything possible to reflect God’s righteous, holy, loving character, and not just turn away from people in frustration or anger because they do not respond to something we do not make inviting in any way

Jesus taught that only those who truly love one another and obey his commands are his disciples, we need to remember this when seeking to share our faith by actually demonstrating we are his disciples through the way we act

John 8:31-32
If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free

John 13:35
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another

If you are not able to find good Christian friends around you, go to more church events outside of just Sundays, think about starting a Bible study, and start serving with other Christians in your community whether they go to your church or not–be proactive about looking for good Christian people, they are not always easy to find, but they are there when we actually look

Above all, ask God how to speak with both your Christian, and non-Christian friends, as he will guide us on what to say, and who to spend time with, we just have to listen, and be willing to actually follow his advice

A crazy concept, I know!

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  • It
    is so important to have those close Christian friendships! Thankfully
    I’m blessed in having a few of those. They’re encouraging and
    challenge me to grow. Bad company corrupts good character (1 Cor
    15:33), but is there not a way to make those non-Christian
    relationships honestly beneficial? Jesus ate with sinners and tax
    collectors and look where it got Matthew. Jesus came to save the
    sick, not the righteous, and as Christians we are suppose to mimic
    Christ and show his light to the world. How can we do that if we get
    too worried about surrounding ourselves with Christians all the time?
    In saying that I don’t believe they should be put in our lives the
    same as our Christian friends. Maybe we spend less time with them, or
    be sure to have say one of them and two Christians to help keep each
    other accountable during that time? Some of the most effective
    ministries I’ve seen is when pastors put themselves out into the
    community, whether through a sport or volunteer position ect. The
    community members get to know and trust that person, then they begin
    to ask why they’re so different and stand out against society. This
    can lead people to wanting to know more and being open to church and
    possibly even Bible studies.

  • Mark 16:15
    And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.

    Are we not putting our “comfort” ahead of God’s command?

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