Step 5. Work on Your Relationships
Genesis 11:1-9 tells us that men began moving “eastward” which suggests that men were intent on following the lead of Adam and Cain (Genesis 3:24; 4:16). They moved away from the tree of life, away from the Garden of Eden, and away from God’s blessings. They were men who knew about the great flood yet were still in flight from God. They were not interested in building a relationship with God. They did not care to know God at all.
Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:30). We can love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19) and He demonstrated His own love toward us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). The health of all your other relationships hinges on the quality of your relationship with God.
In 4:11 of his first letter, the Apostle John exhorts believers this way: “Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” We are to love God’s people and make friends with them. James tells us that friendship with the world is hatred toward God; and that anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God (James 4:4). Building relationships is a conscious choice. We ought to be careful who we have fun with. We should make every effort to make friends with believers and put a “gospel” boundary around our relationships with the world. Yet we should faithfully endeavor to show to the unbelieving people around us the Christ in us.
Jesus reminds us in John 17:16 that we are in the world, but not of it. Paul in Colossians 1:13 tells us that we have been rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into the kingdom of Christ. Believers in different societies scattered over the face of the earth are not to consider this world their home. Even in considering work in the world we are to be conscious that we ultimately work for the kingdom of God. We should not get caught up in the rat race of this world, trying to make a name for ourselves. Rather, we should endeavor to bring glory to God in our workplace by working as unto the Lord always conducting ourselves in love, kindness, and humility.
Men and women of this world continue to move away from the Garden of Eden, as it were, away from God and His blessings. The systems constructed by this world tend to exclude God and the things of God. They may sometimes include a component of religion, but they invent their own gods, gods they can manipulate and cajole. So while God is building His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, fallen men and women continue to build their own separate little kingdoms, societies and networks. James is right, we can not be friends with God and the men and women of this fallen world at the same time because they are at odds with each other. This is not to say that we are at war with the world. Rather, we want to win the world for Christ.
Throughout every society of this world, there is some entrancement with the occult, fascination with fairy tales, magic, horror films, and drug-induced “high” experiences. Satan is the god of this world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air. So watch out for the subtle messages that come to your homes through the air waves. Another common phenomenon among this world’s societies is a fascination with scandals. People want to know who’s sleeping with whom, who’s accusing whom of immorality, illegality, or even criminality, or simply who’s trying to destroy whom. Television dramatizes such things and uncritical audience gets fixated on telenovelas night after night, perhaps for several hours.
Ephesians 2:2 tells us that the peoples of this world follow the ways of Satan. Since Christians have been transferred from this domain of darkness into the marvelous kingdom of the light of Jesus Christ, we ought not to walk in our former way of life. We are citizens in the kingdom of God. We are in the world, but not of it. We are to win the world for Christ. We are not in the world to conform to its way of life.
It is good policy to always remember where we have been and to know exactly where we are going. While “in and of the world” we were under the dominion of darkness, dead in our trespasses and sins, and in harmony with the ways of the world. But, God’s work of redemption changed all that. We were rescued and transferred into the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13). Our sins were forgiven and our outlook on life was radically changed. In view of this present reality, we are no longer obliged to follow our former way of life. Instead, we should be transformed “by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2).”
Since we are no longer governed by darkness, we can see and think more clearly. Having now a basis for comparison, we can analyze and scrutinize the different thoughts and ideas we have in our heads, evaluate the beliefs and values we hold dear, and discern whether our worldview is true or deceptive, good or bad, or right or wrong. In other words, our entire way of thinking can be so renewed that our thought processes no longer conform with the pattern of this world but follow God’s thoughts after Him.
A renewed mind leads to a renewed life. A renewed life acts as a transforming agent, like yeast, that permeates in the life of a family, then a church, and then a community. From small beginnings, a transformed life, like salt, quietly works as a preservative where there is danger of decay and as a flavor-enhancer where there is only blandness. Like light, a transformed life functions as a lamp in a dark place. Finally, a transformed life can expose the ugliness that characterizes this world, the errors of its ways, and the ignorance of its leaders. In the different kingdoms or societies of this world, the Christians with renewed minds become the transforming agents of God’s kingdom.
Societies of the world, no matter how primitive or sophisticated, maintain a certain order or code of conduct. No one and nothing can live and survive chaos. There are patterns of nature that all societies of people sooner or later come to understand. Jeremiah 33:25 refers to these patterns as the fixed laws of heaven and earth. They are natural laws comprehensible by the natural mind. The power structures of societies know they have to work in harmony with these laws of nature or face disaster of all sorts. They also know that without the enforcement of societal laws, as well as, cooperation with natural laws, anarchy and ruin will take over a society and bring its demise.
Christians have a vital role to play in restraining the societies of this world from heading toward lawlessness, to violence and even to chaos.