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Article No. 326
THE SOCIAL LIFE OF THE CHRISTIAN
by By F. Stanley Smith
"THEREFORE if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Corinthians 5:17).
The desires and motives of one who has been born again are different from what they were before the new birth, and naturally the change affects both the inner and outer life. The business, the social, in fact every phase of one’s life is affected by salvation. But, the effect on the social life is the subject that we wish to consider for the present.
It is only one of the many indications of God’s love and care for us that He made us with a social side to our nature. For so long as we are in the world it will be necessary for us to associate with others. Had we no love for association, no enjoyment in it, what an unpleasant, monotonous task it would become!
But while the social side of our nature is intended to be a blessing, man in his sinful state has so perverted and misused it that it has in many cases become a curse instead. It is the perverted use of the social instinct that leads men and women to trip away the hours of the night in the dance hall. The same thing causes crowds of men to gather in saloons and like places to revel in sin and debauchery of every kind. A man in company with other wicked men will often go farther into sin than he will when he is alone; thus, his social nature becomes the means of dragging him farther down the path of ruin.
Not all who are unsaved, however, make such a dissolute use of this propensity. There are many who have not been born again and yet who would not be found in the dance hall, saloon, or other places of degradation.
Nevertheless the main desire of the worldly minded is to have a jolly, “good” time; and their social life is usually spent in some gay, frivolous manner. But when a man becomes a new creature in Christ, the motive that governs this phase of his life, as well as every other, is a desire to please God and to be a blessing to those with whom he associates. How can he best do this?
Should his social life be marked by any special difference from that of the merely moral man? Should he carry religion into his social affairs?
There is just one safe place to go for information on the subject, and that is to the Christian’s guide, the Bible. We have instruction about the Christian’s social life from two sources in the Bible—the example of Jesus and direct written instructions.
WHAT WE MAY LEARN FROM JESUS’ EXAMPLE
People often invited Jesus to their homes, and so far as we know He never refused an invitation. He visited and ate with His friends, and with publicans and sinners, as well. He went to a wedding feast and to feasts that were made in His own honor. He mingled with men on the streets, in the marketplaces, and by the seashore.
But were Jesus’ actions like those of the worldly minded people with whom He mingled? Was His conversation like theirs? Did He feel satisfied to fall in with whatever topic happened to be under discussion and let His time all be spent in talking of earthly things? We are told that society was very corrupt in those days, and that there were then, as now, certain social circles in which the subject of religion was considered out of place.
But we have only to read of Jesus’ conversation in various places to learn that He dared to introduce the subject anywhere and everywhere. Indeed Jesus was so full of the things of God that people knew what to expect when they invited Him to their homes or to their tables.
We do not have a record of all Jesus’ conversations. Doubtless He often spoke of the ordinary affairs of life. But the part of His conversation that is recorded is of the things of God. We know, therefore, that sooner or later He always reached this, the dearest subject of His heart. Is not this a blessed example for His followers?
WRITTEN INSTRUCTIONS OF THE BIBLE
In addition to Jesus’ example the Bible gives some very plain instructions on this subject. We are told that drunkenness and revellings are works of the flesh and that “they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21).
The Christian is forbidden to indulge in certain kinds of conversation.
“But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks” (Ephesians 5:3, 4).
Evil speaking is also condemned.
“But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36).
Christians must not speak evil of others.
“Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men” (Titus 3:1, 2).
Clearly the Christian’s conversation must be free from filthiness, foolish and idle talk, and evil speaking. What then shall the Christian talk about? Is there any instruction which will cover all his conversation?
“Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6),
“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29).
Paul tells us that we may think on
“whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report” (Philippians 4:8).
If it is right for us to think on things of this kind, it is also right for us to talk of them. It is a mistake to think that a Christian should never talk of anything but religion. The only way to lead some people to the things of God is to meet them first on the
plane of their humanity. Clean, edifying conversation on any good subject is therefore lawful. But, the Christian’s heart can not be content to stay too long on earthly topics. If he lives where God wants him to live, he will soon find himself seeking and praying for a way to turn the conversation to the things of God.
THE CHRISTIAN’S ATTITUDE TOWARD WORLDLY GATHERINGS
We have before noticed that the perverted use of the social instinct often leads to gatherings which in their very nature and purpose are harmful. No Christian could enjoy or put his sanction upon the things done in such places. The individuality of the ordinary Christian would be lost in such a crowd, and he would stand no chance to do any one good. To go, therefore, would be only to put himself in danger and to hurt his influence as a Christian. Possibly the Lord might on some occasion send a Wesley, send a Moody, or some other mighty man of God to these places to cry out against them, but the ordinary Christian can best show his disapproval by staying away.
There is another class of gatherings, however, which in their nature and purpose are innocent. But even those gatherings when conducted by unsaved people are almost sure to include some things objectionable to the Christian. Hence the question as to when to go and when to refrain from going has troubled many a sincere man and woman of God. In settling this question
three things should be taken into consideration. First and most important of all is the motive. When in doubt as to whether he should go to a certain place or not, the Christian will do well to ask himself, “For what purpose am I going? Is it with a desire to let my light shine for God?” If upon looking into his heart, he finds this desire first and strongest of all, then, so far as motive
is concerned, it will be all right for him to go.
But, there are two other important things to be considered. One of these is, “What influence will the company of the people there have on me? Though I desire to let my light shine, am I strong enough in the Lord to do it? Will I be able to stand for what I know is right if the crowd should go wrong?” If the Christian does not have grace and faith enough in God to feel that he
can do this, he will be wise to stay away from places where he is likely to meet temptation.
The third thing to be taken into consideration is, “What influence will my presence there have on others? Will it hurt my influence as a Christian and hinder my usefulness for the Lord if I go?” Questions on these three points answered carefully and sincerely will usually make it clear to the Christian as to when he should go or not go to social gatherings among the unsaved.
SOCIAL GATHERINGS AMONG CHRISTIANS
Every Christian worthy of the name has a burning love for his Savior and a fervent desire to see his unsaved friends and neighbors saved. He knows that strictly religious services are the very best places for the Spirit of God to work. Therefore, you will find him doing all he can to get his friends and neighbors to the general meetings, cottage meetings, Bible classes, etc. But it sometimes happens that one who could not be persuaded to go to a religious service will accept an invitation to the Christian’s home for a social evening. Then, too, there is a natural desire even among the saved for social intercourse. An occasional social gathering in the Christian’s home, then, may be the means of doing good.
Whether such gatherings do good or harm, however, depends upon the way which they are conducted. Should thoughts of the Lord be laid aside and the time all be spent idly and frivolously, the Christians present will suffer loss, and the very object for which the unsaved were invited—that of attracting them to Jesus—will be defeated.
But if we as Christians obey the scripture, “Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God,” there will be a tone about our social affairs that is not present in worldly gatherings. The songs sung, the games played, the conversations carried on will be such as the most earnest Christian can enjoy. Time will be found for reading a chapter from the Bible and for offering prayer and praise
to God sometime while the crowd is together. There will be something in the very spirit of such a gathering that will be an uplift to the saved and will convince the unsaved that Christianity is more than a mere profession.
My Brethren and Sisters, time is short. The years of our lives are swiftly passing by. Oh, let us redeem the time. Let us make use of every opportunity to lift up Christ to lost men and women. May we love so that we can hear from Jesus’ lips the welcome words, “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”
THE WAY OF TRUTH magazine, June 1974)
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