Should Christians Expect an Ungodly World to Live up to Godly Standards?
We must admit that there is tension with how believers expect an ungodly world to live according the standards we actually place upon them. How should we, as believers respond to them?
If I walked up and asked anyone at church this particular question, the person would likely say, “no.” However, the assumptions and judgments we carry reveal a different answer. For instance, when we hear of a couple who has moved in together before marriage, our judgement radar goes into overdrive. Or when we hear foul language coming out of a coworker’s mouth, we think to ourselves, “I would NEVER say a word like that.” If a commercial appears on television with a same sex couple, protest rises within you because they do not support your “value system.”
We often see these expectations spewed over social media. When a celebrity or political figure does not meet up with a particular biblical standard, we are quick to criticize via Facebook or Twitter. But we must ask ourselves, what does this accomplish other than isolate Christians further from those who have yet to accept the faith?
We must admit that there is tension with how believers expect an ungodly world to live according the standards we actually place upon them. So, let’s take a few moments to answer the following questions: How should those who do not know God live in this world and how should we, as believers respond to them?
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How Did We Get to Where We Are?
The first chapter of Romans details why the human race acts in such an ungodly way. Since creation, God has revealed Himself through creation. Yet, people refused to acknowledge and give Him thanks. Therefore, He turned them over to their wicked desires. Since people refused to acknowledge the truth of God, He let them chase after their sinful ways. The result was people became gossips, adulterers, senseless, and faithless. While this chapter ends with a grim view of humanity, the story is not over.
Later in Romans, we find that while every person has fallen short in the eyes of God through sin, but God makes them right with Him through faith in Jesus (Romans 3:22-24). It is while we were still sinners that Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). God did not expect us to come clean before He accepted us. Rather, He offered the sacrifice while we were still rebellious and sinful. Through faith, we find peace with God through Christ and receive life through the Spirit (Romans 5:1; 8).
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What Should We Expect of Those Who Do Not Know God?
In Romans 8, Paul discusses that there is a difference between those who live according to the Spirit and those who live according to the flesh. In other words, those who follow Jesus are distinctively different than those who live in the way of the world. Romans 8:5 states that “those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what the nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit, have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” He continues by declaring that the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God, nor does it have the ability to do so (Romans 5:7-8). With this truth in mind, we cannot expect those who do not know God to hold to His standards.
How Should Christians Respond to the Ungodly?
When Jesus came into the world, he came into a world that neither knew Him nor understood Him. While some followed the Mosaic law, the majority of the people Jesus ministered to were considered, “unclean” by the law’s standards. Yet, that did not prevent Jesus from having a significant encounter with them. Jesus was known for hanging out with religious outsiders. He fellowshipped with tax collectors, prostitutes, and other “sinners.” When he gathered with these individuals, he did not ask them to conform to his standards. Rather, he loved them where he found them. And people were transformed by his love.
What Makes the Unclean Clean?
Early in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus healed several individuals who were not religious insiders. One of these was a man with leprosy. In the encounter, the man knelt before Jesus and asked him to make him clean, if he was willing. What if Jesus condemned the man for his uncleanliness? Judging him for the state he was in? But that’s not what Jesus did. Out of compassion, Jesus cleansed the leper, not only by his word, but by his touch. According to the Levitical law, this would make Jesus ritually unclean. However, instead of the touch defiling Jesus, it healed the leper.
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Fellowshipping with “Sinners”
Jesus had the reputation of fellowshipping with reputable sinners. After Jesus called Levi to discipleship, the Teacher ate a meal at the new disciple’s house. Other guests included many tax collectors and “sinners,” who were considered the ones in society who openly disobeyed the Mosaic law. When the religious elite saw Jesus dining with them, they questioned his disciples as to why He would dare have such an intimate relationship with such people. Jesus decided to answer them Himself. He declared that, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). Through this encounter, we see Jesus’ compassion for the ungodly. He was not intimidated by their lifestyle. Rather, it was their need for God that drew Him closer.
How Should Believers Respond to an Ungodly World?
Given the example Jesus set for us, we should see the world through the lens of our Savior. Jesus did not come into the world with the message of judgment, but rather with the message of love. If we center our attitude on love for those who don’t know Christ, perhaps they will respond to us differently because we will see them differently. The world will not be “us” versus “them.” Rather, we as believers will be proactive on how we can reach the world for Christ and see His kingdom expand.
Practical Ways to Respond in Love Today
1. Don’t Broadcast Judgment
One pragmatic step we can take is to watch what we post on social media. Jesus warned his disciples to not judge others (Matthew 7:1-5). We are to examine our own lives for our faults before we try to point out the imperfections of someone else. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” The limited characters we can type often do not reflect the multi-dimensions of our hearts. Therefore, it is necessary to make sure what we present to the world is encapsulated with love. Perhaps, the old saying, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” applies to our approach on social media.
2. Confess Your Judgment and Open Your Heart
In order to grow in our relationship with Christ, we must also confess the times when we have judged our neighbors. This allows us to not only reconnect with our Heavenly Father, but also prepare our hearts to build relationships with those God places in our lives. After we examine our own lives, we should begin to pray for those that do not seek God. Start asking God to bring people into your life who do not know Him. Maybe this will be an uncomfortable prayer at first. Ask God to give you the ability to break down the walls that hindered you from reaching out in the past.
3. Embrace Relationship
As you continue to pray, begin to intentionally interact with someone who doesn’t know God. Instead of being spiritually distant to a person who believes differently from you, build a relationship with them. Since we were all created in God’s image, you might find out that you have more in common than you initially thought.
Jesus gave us the greatest example of how to respond to those living in an ungodly world. God’s Son came down into the world and took on flesh to be with us. He came in love, lived among us, suffered for us, forgave us, and ultimately died for us so that He might have a relationship with us. He commands us that we are to love one another in the same way that He loved us. It is by this love that the world will know that we are His disciples (John 13:34-35). Obedience to His command requires humility, patience, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. But if we truly love those around us, the world will notice the difference Christ has made in us.
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Cortney Whiting is a wife and mother of two wonderfully energetic children. She received her Masters of Theology Degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. After serving in the church for nearly 15 years, Cortney currently serves as a lay-leader and writes for various Christian ministries. You can find her at her blog, Unveiled Graces.
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