Let their hearts be pure and holy; in time of unbelief let them remain steadfast. Let them be faithful in their speech, and unstinting with their help.
- The Rule of Ailbe, Irish, 7th century
For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you.
- 1 Peter 4.3, 4
It’s not that we can’t or shouldn’t have friends among unbelievers. Most of us have unbelievers in our Personal Mission Field, so we can’t avoid them, and we shouldn’t merely shun them.
But neither should we live the way they do. Peter exhorted his readers to make a point of living pure and holy lives before their unbelieving friends, neighbors, and coworkers. This would require steadfastness, so that they could be faithful in their speech and in helping others.
Everything about us – our outlook, demeanor, habits of work and dress, cultural interests, conversation, the way we relate to others – should declare that we live above the narcissism, pragmatism, materialism, and self-seeking ways of the age, and all its immorality, whether overt or implied.
We are new creatures, people who hope in the glory of God (Rom. 5.1, 2) – to know that glory and then to make that glory known in everything we do. We are new creatures in Christ, indwelled by His Spirit. Everything about us should be refreshing and even surprising to those around us who do not know the Lord (2 Cor. 5.17-21; Jn. 7.37-39).
Sadly, what would be surprising in this age of unbelief is to find many Christians who actually live this way. In general, our Christian lives are so ordinary that we do not shine with the brightness Christ intends. Except for those special times when we’re together with other Christians, we seem but little different from the people with whom we work and among whom we live.
Every time some new poll or report comes out indicating that Christians aren’t all that different from everyone else, I groan and wonder how it is that we have not learned to expect all things in our lives to be made new in Jesus, or to give ourselves to the pursuit of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit.
It’s just too easy to fit in comfortably with our unbelieving age, to keep our faith under the radar, to go with the flow, and refuse to make waves (and any other clichés of conformity that come to mind). We don’t want others to think us strange, or to speak evil of us, because we refuse to conform to their moral preferences.
When ministers or newsletter writers dare to suggest that our comfortable, materialistic, easy-going and complacent way of living is out of step with the Gospel, the people of God get restive and resentful. They look for another church, or turn to other websites and resources, to affirm their views and practices. Celtic Christians like Ailbe often found themselves at odds with the majority of Christians around them, because they insisted on living “pure and holy” lives and holding fast to their testimony to Christ.
In unbelieving times, what the world needs to see and experience is people with true belief. Your Personal Mission Field is the place to begin bringing the light and joy of the risen and reigning Christ into the darkness and uncertainty of an unbelieving age. Pray for the people in your Personal Mission Field. Plan each day how you will show Christ to them, whether by word or deed. Seek the Lord’s grace and strength to empower you for Kingdom living. Make it your goal to understand the people around you and the times in which we live, so that you’ll know just what to do to fulfill your calling as a witness for Christ (1 Chron. 12.32; Acts 1.8).
We can’t just go along to get along. The time has long since passed for that. We are citizens and ambassadors of a Kingdom not of this world. Our life goals must unfold toward righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit, and the glory of God in all things.
That won’t always make us popular. But it will make us distinct.
1. What can you do to be more focused on working your Personal Mission Field each day?
2. Do you pray for the people in your Personal Mission Field? Do you understand their needs and concerns?
Psalm 1.1, 3 (St. Thomas: I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord)
How blessed are they that shun sin’s vain and wicked ways.
For them has Christ salvation won; He loves them all their days.
Firm planted on the banks of God’s great stream of grace,
They raise unending praise and thanks to His great glorious face.
Lord, I want to be a light for Christ in these dark days, so today help me to…
Understanding the Times
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T. M. Moore
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Ó Maidín, p. 23.