The Tolerable Christian:
'Friendship With the World'
Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home.
Many Christians today read the passage above, from James, understanding that, quite literally, one cannot be friends with any who do not believe as we do ( AKA, 'the world' ); however, read in context with Jesus' statement from the Gospel according to Luke, it seems that we SHOULD make friends with 'the world', even unrighteous ones! What are we to make of this seeming contradiction? Can we or should we be friends with those who war against the Gospel of Peace? Of course not, but if we simply tolerate them, are we acquiescing to their violence, or simply living at peace ( loving ) our neighbor?
Both James & Jesus made the above statements in a slightly different context, both culturally & historically from our present situation. 'The world' of their day was that, yes, of the enemies of the Gospel, but we must understand first of all that both Jesus & his brother were referring to the apostate Jews, 'the world' ( system ) of their day. Second, both were speaking to those who labored under that first ( AKA, the Old ) covenant. As Christians under the New Covenant, while we should not tolerate evil, neither should we turn our backs on those who do not have a right relationship with their Creator!
The Gospel, as we have noted previously, is not about Heaven & Hell, but rather about life in this world! The Good News is that our Heavenly Father brought Peace on Earth & Goodwill to All Men. He did this that men might live in peace & perpetuate His Kingdom all over the world. We have borne witness to this Gospel of Peace in the midst of Turmoil, as Christians have peaceably resisted those enemies of the Gospel, but we have also borne witness to those who claim the Name of Christ & yet have done the exact opposite: they seem to have adopted the way of those enemies of the Gospel & rather than transforming their world through this Gospel of Peace, have conformed to it by making enemies of those who should be friends!
G.K. Chesterton once said that, 'tolerance is the virtue of the man without conviction'. It has been said that if one doesn't believe something, they'll fall for anything. Christians, to a large extent, have misunderstood the Nature & Character of our Heavenly Father! Because they have these errant convictions about Him, they have tolerated many things which they shouldn't & have refused to tolerate many things which they should have embraced. Too many Christians have embraced the notion that the Gospel IS about going to Heaven when you die & avoiding Hell; they seem to have forgotten that this IS our Father's world & that we ARE here, not to tolerate evil, but to transform our culture into one of Peace.
Both Jesus & His brother lived in a peculiar time; they were facing an enemy who was surely & finally being brought to his knees! That enemy was Death & now with the death of Death, the Gospel of Peace, not tolerance of evil, is transforming the culture as we speak. It may seem that we live in such a time as Jesus did & in some sense, we may bear witness to that fact, but with one glaring difference, the Presence of our Heavenly Father now dwells in our midst; we do not labor under the Law of that first ( Old ) covenant, but rather in the Grace of the New!
The question of whether we can tolerate those who do not believe as we do is not a simple one! We should not tolerate evil or wickedness, but neither should we turn our backs on a world that so desperately needs us! Christians should embrace, not the ways of the world, by tolerating the evils thereof, but the world itself, by realizing that it is our Father's Creation & transforming it through the Gospel of Peace!
Charles Haddon Shank