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And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven” (Mark 4:10-12).
Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one (1 Thess 4:9-12).
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person (Col 4:5-6).
The Kingdom of Heaven has almost always had outsiders. Since Adam fell into sin, humanity has had members outside God’s Kingdom. When the Son came to earth, he addressed the issue of those outside the Kingdom as well.
What to do with those who choose to stay out of the Kingdom of God is not a new problem. But since we don’t inherit the wisdom and holiness of previous generations—we have to learn it ourselves and make it our own—it’s something that must be taught again and again.
And with the recent Supreme Court decision compelling all states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, it seems a good time to go over it again.
What do we do with those who reject God? How do we interact with them in our daily lives? What about the political dimension?
Well first, let’s get the political dimension out of the way. Because I’m not going to tell you what political philosophy or theology (yes, there is political theology) to believe. Political-theologically, we have the Old Testament Kingdom of Israel to go off of… and that’s about it. The whole of the New Testament was written in a time when people of the Kingdom tended to have little to no political power, so that’s pretty hard to go off of. Sure, there are principles you could apply, but explaining all that would be far in excess of the boundaries of these articles. So I’ll simply tell you this:
You had better spend some serious time in prayer, meditation, thought and reading (scriptural and otherwise) to figure out your personal political theology. I’ll probably do an article on that sometime to give you resources to help you figure it out. But that’s not here or now.
So, to the rest:
As I read over the (many, many) scriptures quoted above and below, two big patterns emerge: holiness in your personal life and love of the outsider.
I particularly like how Paul puts it in Colossians. We see an appeal to grace and wisdom in dealing with the non-Christian. The Gospel is offensive in and of itself; we’ve no need to antagonize people further. Rather, as Paul says in 1 Cor 10:31-33: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.”
You are to be gracious and wise to the non-Christian so that they might see the glory of God, so that they might be saved.
This does not mean, however, that you should compromise the Gospel to remove the offense. Truth is truth whether we like it or not, whether it appeals to us or not. There are those who, out of compassion, call good what is evil that they might remove any barrier between the outsider and the Kingdom. But to do that does not bring people into the Kingdom, but deludes them into believing they are in it. These people contribute to the number of those who, before God, will say, “Did I not do things in your name?” and to whom God will say, “Go away; I never knew you” (Matt 7:21-23).
Remember that just as “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful” (1 Cor 13:4-5), love also “does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” (1 Cor 13:6).
You may not call good what is evil, or you will bear the same guilt found in Malachi 2:17: ‘You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”’
If God was tired of that more than 2,000 years ago, He’s probably still tired of it now.
This, then, is the heart of how you are to interact with those who reject God: you must be loving towards them and holy in our own lives, relying on the wisdom of the Spirit. Just because our culture calls something good does not mean that it is so, and just because our culture thinks the truth is hateful does not mean that it is so.
Rather, glorify God in your own life and show the grace of God to those who reject Him. Do not compromise God’s truth; do not trade the truth for a lie. But with patience and kindness born of real love and grace, share God’s truth to those who will hear it. That is wisdom straight from Jesus: Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you” (Matt 7:6).
Disciple those who will be discipled. Don’t waste the time and energy God has given you on those who won’t listen, but wait and listen to the Spirit so that, when the time is right and their hearts are open, they might see and hear and know that Jesus is Lord.
So I pray for you that you might increase in real love for those who are not in the Kingdom. That you might love the truth of God and share it with them with patience and kindness. That you might be wise and loving with those who don’t know God, that they might come to know and love Him!
Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires (Rom 13:10-14).
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation (1 Pet 2:11-12).
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom 12:14-21).
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil (1 Pet 3:13-17).