“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” – James 4:4
Do you know why the Roman emperor Nero persecuted Christians? Long story short, there was an accidental fire that burned down much of Rome and the people wanted someone to blame. Nero picked the Christians to blame, but he didn’t pick them because they believed in Jesus. He picked them because their Christian convictions caused them to reject much of the main stream of Roman culture. Christians, in that day, disapproved of many aspects of Roman’s values, and because of that, the rest of Rome despised them.
Christians rejected the majority of Roman sporting events because the athletes were often immodest (racers ran naked). In addition to this, many athletes were treated like gods and were idolized by Rome. Christians also rejected the theatre because of the ungodliness that was continually saturated within the stories on stage. History tells us about an actor who became a Christian in the 2ndcentury. He quickly left the profession without any hesitation, seeing as it would be wrong for a Christian to be part of something so vile. Christians also rejected the cruelty and barbarianism of the Coliseum which very dear and special to Rome.
Rome despised Christians for believing that their favorite forms of entertainment and idolization were wrong. Rome was like a child who wouldn’t be happy unless other children liked what they liked. This thinking is still common today, for it is the thinking of the world. If you don’t approve of the world’s behavior, it will hate you. A Roman philosopher named Seneca, who lived in the 1st century, wrote the following to a dear friend concerning the Coliseum: Do not, my Lucilius, attend the games, I pray you. Either you will be corrupted by the multitude, or, if you show disgust, be hated by them. So stay away.
This is why we must choose between friendship with the world and friendship with God. We can’t have both. Understand, the verse above, isn’t speaking about being friends with worldly people. It is speaking of approving of the world’s behavior. To be a ‘friend of the world’ means to accept and approve of whatever the majority of the culture says is good and acceptable. If the culture of our day says that murder is acceptable, and if you say that you don’t agree, then they will hate you. If you want the world to like you and accept you, then you have to think the way it thinks and approve of its behavior. The only problem with this is the following: The ways of the world are opposed to God’s ways. If you earn the world’s acceptance (in regard to their sinful ways), then you will lose God’s acceptance.
In this blog series, titled ‘Friendship with the World’, we are going to be looking at certain ideas and behaviors that our world agrees with, but God rejects. The goal in this series is to challenge us to truly be friends with God instead of the world.
In the days of Rome, if you wouldn’t be its friend, then Rome would put you in the Coliseum along with a pack of lions. The crowds would cheer as you were being killed. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego also had the same choice put before them. They chose to go against what the world said was correct, and as a result, they were thrown into the fire. But it was in the fire that Jesus met them. If we lived in the days of Daniel, would we have bowed down to the statue or stepped within the fire? If we lived back in the days of Rome, would we have gone to the Coliseum as spectators, or as martyrs?
The same choice is before us today. We can either sit comfortably in the bleachers of worldly acceptance, or we can step down in the arena of self-denial and share in Christ’s suffering. We can either bow down to the idols of the world, or we can step into the fire of godliness and experience the purity of heaven. Jesus is waiting for us in the arena floor. He is waiting for us in the fire. He is waiting for our friendship. Which will you choose?