I just moved from Houston to Miami to help my church plant a new church here. And while I love sun, water and Florida in general, I have to admit the move did make me nervous.
My last time living in South Florida was before I came to Christ and anything but Godly. Being an hour away from Miami meant I was close enough to visit whenever. LIV, KOD, Lincoln Road…crazy nights.
Plus, my sinful nature errors on the side of worldliness, I’ve just moved to arguably one of the worldliest places in the country, I’m growing a business so will definitely be out networking, oh, and the Miami beach attire is enough to make anyone struggle spiritually.
In making the decision to come, I definitely had to ask God more than once if I had heard Him correctly, Lol. Which is also why I’ve been thinking a lot about the line between the Kingdom and the world.
In 1 Corinthians 9:22, after a paragraph discussing this concept, the Apostle Paul writes, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”
Clearly our ability to relate to people is essential for our evangelism.
But then in Hebrews he writes, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14
This scripture makes being holy – which means set apart – necessary for salvation.
These two present an interesting question for followers of Christ. How can we be all things to all people while at the same time being in the world but not of it?
Walking this line is one of the hardest things about being a Christian, especially for those who are naturally social. I deal with it a lot – I’m sure even more in my new city – and so I wanted to share four things that help me stay on the right side of the line.
- Relate without compromising
Relating to people is about building a bridge between our lifes and theirs through shared experiences. Jesus did this a lot – for example having dinner at Levi, the tax collector’s house – which is how he got a reputation for hanging out with sinners. (Mark 2:13-17)
But what we also see about Jesus is that He didn’t go to their place of sin or anywhere that would compromise His faith to hang out with them. That’s because for Him, pleasing God came before pleasing people.
When we flip that order, it’s usually because we want the approval and validation that comes with pleasing people. Which, I mean, let’s be real. It feels awesome when other people think we’re awesome.
One scripture that helps me keep that in check is Galatians 1:10 –
“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
I love how the Bible is so straight forward and to the point. We have to remember that pleasing people will almost always be the opposite of pleasing God.
So how can we be effective with people (for evangelism) while still pleasing God (for salvation)?
For me, when I get invited somewhere that doesn’t fit my beliefs, I decline. But then I’ll always make sure to get together with that person in a different setting so I’m still building the friendship with the goal of sharing God.
Or, I’ll organize things to do and invite people. That way, it’s like I’m bringing them into my world and I get to decide what we do. Instead of the club, maybe we go to a live music show. Or instead of a regular bar, we go to a sports bar to watch the game or have a game night at my house.
Be intentional in your interactions and relatable without compromising.
- Stay in the Word
This one will be on my list of tips often because it literally fixes everything, haha. I always compare my daily quiet times with God to dating Jesus.
Have you ever started dating someone and they said words that were totally not in your vocabulary? But as you spent more time with that person, I bet you started talking more like them and maybe even wondered what words you used before they came into your life, right?
The same goes with dating Jesus. The more we read His Word, the more we’ll start to sound like him in the things we say. Romans 10:17 tells us that even our faith comes from the Word. It’s literally what keeps our whole relationship with God strong.
And in order to imitate God’s words we need to read them ourselves. Just going to church doesn’t have the same effect. That’d be like just having conversations with your significant other’s brother instead of the person you’re actually dating.
It’ll also help us build a relationship with God that’s worth coming home to. Because if we’re honest, even when we’re in committed relationships, we’re not blind and it’s not like we’re never attracted to anyone but our significant others. What keeps us faithful is the belief that what we have there is better than anything else and too much to give up. Staying in the Word will help us build and maintain that type of relationship with Jesus. #dateJesus
- Know your struggles
We all struggle with certain things and they may be very different from what the next person struggles with. For example, I don’t struggle with alcohol. I can go out and have one drink without that drink turning into five. It’s not a big deal to me. On the other hand, I can’t build close friendships with attractive men who don’t follow God because that’s gonna make me struggle for real.
When we signed up to be Christians, we signed up to deny ourselves and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23-26). But even Jesus had to pray for three hours in the garden of Gethsemane to get his heart right and do what God asked him to, reminding us that “the sprit is willing but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:36-41)
The biggest reason to know our struggles is to make sure we’re not putting ourselves in positions for our flesh to be weak, especially if we’re hanging out with non-believers with the goal of winning them over to Christ. They might not act interested. But as soon as you say you’re a Christian, they’re going to watch everything you do to see if you’re for real, or if you’re like so many others who don’t live what they say they believe.
One of my favorite quotes is from DC Talk’s song Jesus Freak:
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians. Who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
And a great scripture for that is 1 Timothy 4:16. Remember, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Know your struggles and don’t push them.
- Love without judging
The quickest way to turn someone who doesn’t follow Jesus off to the idea of it is to make them feel judged and unloved.
Remember that while it is our place to judge those who claim to be Christians, it is not our job to judge people outside the church or to hold them to a Biblical standard (1 Corinthians 5:12). So as we’re interacting with people who say they’re not Christians, we can’t expect them to act like Christians!
None of the bad things they – or any of us – do are because of who we are alone, but also the work of Satan in our lives (Ephesians 6:12). The best way to deal with this is the humility of remembering all the sin you were in before Christ saved you (and others you still commit daily), and the compassion to realize that no matter what they have going on, they need to be saved from it just like you did. That way, you’ll always come across as loving.
Another thing about loving as a Christian is that at times, it means lovingly disagreeing. I have several friends who don’t follow Jesus and they know two things about me: that I absolutely love them, and that I don’t at all agree with them.
We can’t come across as unloving and represent God (1 John 4:8) and we also can’t agree with anyone who doesn’t agree with the Bible (John 8:31-32). Sadly we’ve gotten into an era where many people equate disagreement with hate or phobia, but that’s simply not true. To combat that, we have to be unquestionably loving in our expression of any religion-based disagreement.
When dealing with people outside the church, our job is to love them and offer to help them study the Bible so that they can build their own relationship with God. Like going on double dates with Jesus until they feel comfortable to get to know Him on their own 😉 That’s what the Great Commission is all about (Matthew 28:18-20)
So as I get started on this new journey in Miami, I’ll be using these tips a lot. And I’m sure I’ll have lots of struggles and lessons to share with you, haha.. Pray for me. I’m super excited though to go down and help evangelize South Florida for God. If you’re down there and want to help, hit me up!
And I’d love to hear from you on this topic. What have your experiences been like trying to relate to people and still be set apart for God? Any tips you’d add to this list? Let me know in the comments below!
Excited to keep writing and chatting with you. Until next time I’ll be praying that our daily steps glorify the One who allows them.
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