By words and actions, Christians are making some kind of an impression on people around them. Our neighbors who are outside the kingdom of Christ are being influenced, either for good or for bad, by what we say and what we do. Not everyone will pay attention to us, but others will take more notice of our way of life than we may expect.
Paul admonished the saints at Colosse, “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without . . .” (Col. 4:5). When the apostle wrote concerning “them that are without” versus “them that are within” (1 Cor. 5:12), he was referring to Christians versus sinners. The following are some of the principles involved in our conducting ourselves wisely toward the world:
Honesty should be viewed as a basic law of right conduct, not a matter of mere policy. We should show integrity and freedom from deceit in all our business transactions. Our means of livelihood must be honorable. Writing along this line to the Thessalonians, Paul said, “And that you study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That you may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that you may have need of nothing” (1 Thess. 4:11, 12). A Christian quickly kills his influence for good when he acts deceitfully, becomes involved in shady dealings, or pursues a course that is less than honorable.
Everything which the Christian does should be consistent with the teaching of Jesus Christ. Some things are so manifestly contrary to right that they should never be named as befitting saints (Eph. 5:3). In doctrine, in worship, in our individual work, in all that we do, there must be harmony with the will of God. Outsiders may not know much about the Bible, but they soon detect inconsistency between teaching and practice on the part of professed believers in Jesus.
Consistency demands constancy. Some members of the church live one way on Sunday and another way on Monday. They live one way when in the company of other Christians, but differently before the worldly. This is plain hypocrisy and is detested by both the Lord and the world.
Show Understanding And Sympathy
Outsiders need help. Some of them are engulfed in immorality and unbelief. Some have high moral principles, but are ignorant of God’s positive divine laws. Others are caught up in religious errors – perhaps Catholicism, Protestant denominationalism, or the false concepts of some cult. True Christians must try to understand their plight. We must teach rather than berate, lift rather than crush, pointing to the Lamb of God as the means of salvation and hope eternal. We can show sympathy without compromise. We need not abandon the truth to defend it in love.
Christians are a called-out people. Through the gospel we are called out of Satan’s kingdom to serve in the kingdom of Christ. We must keep ourselves unspotted from the world (Jam. 1:27). “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened . . .” (Eph. 4:17). Whatever time we spent in sinful living prior to our conversion to Christ ought to suffice (1 Pet. 4:3).
It is sometimes hard to live among outsiders, to work among them, and be sympathetic toward them without partaking of their deeds that are evil. The Christian’s watchword is “vigilance.” We must be watchful over our own conduct to prevent our losing those distinct qualities that make us God’s people.
Exercise Good Judgment
Wisdom means prudence. James said, “if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that gives to all men liberally, and upbraids not; and it shall be given him” (Jam. 1:5). Often sincere attempts to do good end in failure for lack of sound judgment. The Christian needs discernment, practical and well-informed wisdom – the good sense to apply the word of God. Paul walked with wisdom when he was “made all things to all men” that he might by all means save some (1 Cor. 9:22).
Let us pray that God will help us to conduct ourselves prudently toward outsiders that our influence might be to His honor.