Monday, May 14, 2012

The Illusion of Friendship with the World

If you've ever seen the movie "House of Flying Daggers," you've seen a great example of the illusion of friendship. The movie is filled with surprises as friend becomes foe becomes friend becomes foe, etc. What is interesting about the movie is that you don't know who is a friend and who is a foe until something happens that reveals reality. Of course, reality is ultimately revealed at the end.

The movie is interesting precisely because I think it has much to say to Christians in the world. Everyone within one's communal sphere, for the most part, looks like friend. We have some exceptions, but by and large, we view friends as people who are nice to us and enemies as people who are mean to us, or to put ourselves on the "bad side," we consider people we like as friends and people we don't like as enemies, or at least as "non-friends."

However, the Bible says that we are actually at war with the world and the world is at war with us, not because we started the war, but because the world is at war with God, the one true God that is. The world is a friend to you in so far as you conform to its comfort zone and don't reflect God through word and deed too much; but when you do, those happy friendships are soon dissolved. This is either because they were never friendships in the first place, or because one of the parties within that friendship has moved closer to or further away from God. Hence, they were either illusions created by superficial encounters, or have simply come to a place where one must retreat to nothing but superficial encounters if he or she are to remain friends.

I have no interest in such friendships, as is evident by the path I've chosen to take in moving people to discuss what they really believe and practice at a deeper level. I've lost many a friendship because I chose to speak truth into someone's life because I loved them. They do not perceive it as love, as God Himself is not perceived as love, but only judgment and a hindrance to what they wish to accomplish in life.

But it's this deeper level that displays who we really are inside, and so, it is this deeper level creates genuine friendships, where people are bound at the core rather than by some common endearing external (what foods we like, what activity we like to do, what movies we like, what school we went to, where we grew up, where we worked, etc.). We're not really about sports or fishing or food. We just stay in those things because we either don't want to show ourselves to ourselves, fearing that we in fact may be lost, or we don't want to offend others by ourselves. We want the world to love us. We, hence, only reveal ourselves to others occasionally. But our friendships that are based on the core of what we believe and who we are, our real friendships, reveal something about ourselves, not just those to whom we are bound. Our true friendships reveal our allegiances or lack thereof to God.

This is actually a major theme within the Apocalypse. Despite being misused by the Left Behind franchise, the Book of Revelation is actually a large argument that seeks to comfort Christians who have been dispossessed by the world more than it is a judgment of the world. The world is wicked and not acceptable to God. That is obvious in Scripture, but that is not the primary revelation given to us in the Apocalypse. The real message is that the loss of friendship with those in the world is the norm. Persecution is the norm. Being an annoyance to the world is the norm. The world is no longer the friend of a Christian, because he has become friends with God, who the world does not love (despite it's protests otherwise).

Of course, the world loves its gods. It just doesn't love God. To the world, the real God is oppressive, and those who reflect Him reflect His disdain for the disobedience of the world. This comes off as a feeling of judgment when a child of the fallen world is around a child of God. And talking about Him night and day, as one who loves Him is prone to do (per Deut 6:6-9), is an absolute annoyance to the world. It doesn't want to talk about God all the time. God is relegated to occasional late night conversations, deep speculations concerning the universe when one is drunk, and when Aunt Betty discovers she has tumor. And only then are the world's gods discussed, comforting deities of human creations that never judge our personal evils and always encourage us to pursue our unfallen hearts. But Christians who display and speak of God all the time don't make good friends in the world's eyes. Their constant discussions of the true God, a God who is not accommodating to the worship of the self, are toxic to the lives the world wishes to cut out for itself. And it is difficult to go up to the surface and find a more superficial common ground among Christians and the world IF the Christians choose to live in the love of the Holy God continually to the disrespect of the world who hates His holiness.

Hence, in the Apocalypse, we are told that there are actually three groups of people, not two. Most people think that there are just two groups: Christians and the world. But actually there are three: Christians, the world, and false Christians who try to be friends with the world by compromising their love for God and His holiness. It's this third group that is often missed. What is interesting is that this group is equally seen as an enemy of Christians that joins hands with the world, even though it's religious/spiritual. It is seen as such because it displays itself as loving God, but really has no love for the real God at all. Instead, it loves the world and wants to please it with its spirituality. It's the whore who rides on the back of the beast, false Christianity. The world, at least, is an inhuman creature that acts like the unreasoning animal it is. The false church is a whore, a malfunctioning human that does not take upon its role as a woman, and thus, as a human being. It does not create life. It only serves to fulfill the spiritual desires of the world to be accepted by God without having to submit to God's standards, repent of its sin, be justified by His work, and be sanctified by His Word in order to be made acceptable.

This is what the world wants of Christians too. It doesn't want them to be Christians. It wants them to be a group of whores. When they do not act like whores, they are persecuted for it. They are shunned. They are slandered. Some are beaten. Some are killed. But none are seen as friends, because to be a Christian is to make an enemy of the wicked world. To love God means one now no longer loves what does not reflect God, and this is reflected in the Christian's speech and actions.

The world loves us for our service to it with good works. It praises God, at least their version of God, for those works accomplished through us. It is when we open our mouths that we evidence who we are down deep, and that is when all sides realize that we have nothing meaningful in common. We are enemies at war. Our friendships were illusions created by our lack of communicating who we really are down deep, covered up by a thousand foot pile of superficial conversations and silence.

The war, however, rages on. And we can decide to be who we are and be enlisted into it, or we can continue to forget who we are, and do and talk about the same things the world likes to do and talk about in order to appease it, in order for it to love us, in order to keep our "friends." who would otherwise kick you in the dirt if it knew the real God we served.

But friendship with the world is an act of war upon God. The Letter of James says: "You adulteresses, do you not know that  friendship  with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: "He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us"? (4:4-5). Again, the apostle John says: "Do not love the  world , nor the things in the  world . If anyone loves the  world , the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the  world , the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the  world  And the  world  is passing away, and [also] its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever (1 John 2:15-17).

And what good was a friendship to a person who is annoyed by Christ anyway? What did they contribute to us? We should love and seek their good and wish them well on their way, but they are of no value to our lives, beyond being a catalyst for compromise, a means to destructive end. As the Apostle Paul once quoted, "Bad company corrupts good morals" (1 Cor 15:33). Their religion is just as toxic to ours as ours is to theirs.

We are eternal. Our love for the true God burns eternal. We cannot bind ourselves to the temporal world that is passing away. Our friendships must be rooted in Christ because those are the only friendships we really have to value. All else is chaff. All else is illusion. And Christians are called to reality with God. They have been set free. All allegiances have been revealed. All illusions of friendship with the world destroyed.

"This I command you, that you love one another. "If the  world  hates you, you know that it has hated Me before [it hated] you. "If you were of the  world , the  world  would love its own; but because you are not of the  world , but I chose you out of the  world , therefore the  world  hates you. "Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. "But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. "If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. "He who hates Me hates My Father also. "If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. "But [they have done this] in order that the word may be fulfilled that is written in their Law, 'They hated Me without a cause.'(John 15:17-25)

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