Preparing for Heaven

Building the Eternal Phase of Your Life

Be Wise and Win the Respect of Outsiders

by Dick Wulf | Course Three

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We are instructed in Scripture to use God’s wisdom in dealing with nonbelievers. Individual Christians are to work with other Christians to solve confusing situations involving non-Christians. In doing so, God’s name will be glorified.

Two Bible verses give us this directive. Col 4: 5 says, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.” And 1 Peter 2:12 tells us, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

Our Lord wants Christians to live in such a way in the midst of non-Christians that, even though they do not agree with us, they have respect for us. This is both so that we Christians can go about living together in peace as well as that God may be glorified.

We must win the respect of unbelieving society and its people in three ways. (1) We are to be salt to the world and make it a better place to live, (2) we are to live true to the Bible in our interactions with outsiders, and (3) we need to not expect them to have our values and behavior.

First, we need to make our neighborhoods, towns, cities, and the world better because we are here. In fact, with God’s loving concern for all people and so much going wrong around us, plus God’s power available to us, we should be accomplishing things superior to the solutions coming from unbelievers.

Second, we need to live our faith, not just speak of it. Outsiders will respect us if we are genuine and our lives match what the Christian faith believes. If we are to be respected by the unbelievers around us, we need to live consistently with our beliefs. Nobody listens or respects us if we speak like a Christian but do not live like one.

Third, we will be respected if we accept the right of outsiders to live like outsiders, as long as it is within the law. (Remember that to accept and to respect does not mean agreement or approval.) If we expect or try to force unbelievers to live as if they are believers, opposition and disrespect will be the result. Besides, such expectations are unreasonable. Only the redeemed can live like redeemed people.

How good are we at dealing with people’s free will to chose something other than the Way of God? All around us are hedonists, Christians in name only, atheists, agnostics, Muslims and others. Do we get upset with them that they are what they are? Jesus started His communication with us as we were – sinners. He showed us love, not scorn. If we are to win the respect of outsiders, we need to do it the way Jesus did and still does.

Christians often need to seek wisdom and think through together how to deal with complicated situations with unbelievers. Being wise and winning the respect of outsiders gives us two valuable things to take with us to heaven. First, our spirits develop more loyalty to Jesus when we do not avoid deeper relationship with non-believers, yet remain determined to represent Jesus well. Second, we will grow in our ability to handle complicated situations with people.
Loyalty is at the heart of avoiding hypocrisy. It is tempting when with unbelievers to fit in and go along with their thinking and behavior. If such is consistent with biblical righteousness, all is good. But, if such adaptation to the situation is not consistent with our faith, it is disloyal to our Lord and inconsistent with our beliefs. And, it in no way prepares us for heaven.

Therefore, to figure out how to stay true to our faith and loyal to Jesus Christ when around outsiders, we need wisdom. We must pray for help from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s help will often come through the counsel of those in our Christian Inner Circles.

We have all known people who talked of righteousness that they were not even trying to live. Unbelievers can respect us if we, for example, believe in forgiving others but sometimes struggle to do so. What earns their disrespect is knowing that Christ taught forgiveness and seeing Christians comfortable with unforgiveness and revenge.

Those in our extended families who do not know Christ look carefully at us, ready to criticize our faith for its lack of application to real life. An uncle who wants to dismiss Christian truth as superstition, for example, will be looking for inconsistencies of faith in his niece’s Christian family. Particularly juicy for his appetite will be unloving behavior within that family without recognition that sin has been committed and forgiveness is then requested.

If we do not prove ourselves authentic on the turf of our non-Christian counterparts, why would they listen to our witness or think that we have anything useful for them? We have to at least outdistance nonbelievers in consistency to what we believe.

Not avoiding contact with non-Christians and putting forth effort to gain wisdom and win the respect of outsiders is well worth it when we arrive in heaven. The complexity of figuring out how to handle each difficult situation trains our minds and spirits to be more and more loyal to God, His truth, and His way of living. In heaven we will have allowed our Lord to have molded us into people who know at a deeper level God’s heart about things. Even though in heaven we will not need to know how God wants us to act with unbelievers, because they will not be there, it will have been great practice for thinking of God and how He wants us to treat the great variety of heaven’s citizens.

There will be plenty of challenge in heaven in learning how to be sensitive to believers who will have come from different cultures and different centuries. How should we relate to an Aboriginal saint from Australia? How would God like us to uniquely treat them? How should we show respect for a Roman convert from the first century? Just having had a life of figuring out how to relate to unbelievers God’s way will prepare us to be thoughtful in relating to all the people we will meet in heaven.

Hopefully, this story of mine will highlight what I have just said.

I did not realize that the depth of relationships here in heaven would vary. Just yesterday I was in a group of lovely citizens of heaven and the discussion was about some complicated issue. Some of us, when frustration hit were able to keep talking things through. Others did not have that ability. Since frustration in heaven is not sinful, just a challenge for the level of righteousness in our spirits, no one got angry. But, some just became non-verbal, even though they were normally talkative. It appears that some of us here in heaven did not learn before death to relate biblically to challenging interactions with those unlike themselves. This could have been learned if they had sought wisdom and won the respect of those not destined for heaven.

Having to be consistent in our faith in challenging interactions with non-Christians is one of the most valuable ways of preparing for heaven. Taking God into account, especially when in the presence of unbelievers, helps us avoid hypocrisy and prepare for heaven. There will be hundreds of situations with unbelievers that will force us to seek God’s wisdom to be able to apply our faith without wavering. It may be tempting from time to time to compromise our faith and avoid uncomfortable confrontation. But, finding through wisdom how to stay true to our faith and not be overly self-righteous helps transform us from people who watch out for our own comfort to those who seek to make God’s heart glad.

Think how it will bless Jesus if we seek God’s wisdom in dealing with outsiders sensitively while being faithful to the truth. How should a couple handle the visit of the wife’s mother who will continually blaspheme the Lord with her foul language? The guys at work want a young Christian man to go out with them after work to a strip club. How should he respond? One family’s neighbor wants to split the cost of a very expensive fence, one they could afford but feel is extravagant and not the Lord’s will. How should they handle this? A woman has been attacked at work for her beliefs and people are now giving her the silent treatment. What should she do?

To handle such situations in ways that do not compromise Christian behavior requires great wisdom. The search for how to deal with such situations must usually be done with the help of Christian friends, family members, and spouses. Those in our Christian Inner Circles need to remember that these challenges are to be desired as preparation for heaven. In helping one another discover how to handle outsiders in a way that pleases God, our spirits develop further loyalty to Jesus as well as gain wisdom for dealing with people different from us.

Bending over backwards to be righteous, helpful and not overly offensive with unbelievers is great training for interacting with believers, both here and now and later in heaven. Concentrating on how to interact lovingly with others, whether they be Christians or those outside of the faith, is the way to learn how to be more and more naturally wise for relationships – from this point on – and throughout eternity.

All relationships will be enjoyable and without conflict in heaven. But not all relationships will experience the same depth of love and understanding. Just as in an organized church, many believers know only how to have loving conversations at a superficial level, in heaven, it will likely be the same. Many will have spirits that never sought wisdom for difficult relationships and are limited to not very deep loving and sincere interactions. But, some of us will have struggled to relate to people when it was not easy. Interacting with outsiders posed challenges that brought great development of wisdom in our spirits for challenging relationships.

People who often deal with complicated situations with unbelievers and are successful in gaining their respect are those who have, with the help of the Holy Spirit and other Christians, spent time in thinking about those relationships. This gives them practice in considering the deeper mechanisms of human interaction. Their spirits develop, and those spirits enter heaven with abilities that some others will not have.

At most large family reunions there are superficial conversations and there are more complex conversations. Both are meaningful. But, it seems that when everyone goes home they remember the interactions that contained more substance. Upon thinking back, they can categorize their loved ones at different levels of relationship depth. For whatever reason, some family members were what might be called “shallow”, not able to discuss things perhaps for fear of controversy or insensitivity.

In heaven this will not necessarily change. It seems quite logical that those who before death did not avoid outsiders and struggled with how to relate to them and gain their respect will have had to be more thoughtful. All that thinking will have given them abilities for depth in the relationships of heaven. Yet, those who did not think more deeply how to get along with people and stay true to their faith will not have developed skills for such depth of relationship. They will be like the lovely yet “shallow” people at the family reunion.

Something else to think about is that God will appreciate those who believed the Bible to the point of consistently living it out relatively free of hypocrisy when confronted with difficult situations with those outside of the faith. Added appreciation will result in a bit closer relationship with God for all eternity.
Furthermore, God will draw nearer to those who represented Him well to unbelievers. Just as a father is quite proud of a child that represents the family well in school, so God will have a higher quality of relationship with those of us who make Him proud by handling ourselves in such a way with outsiders that they respect us as His representatives.

It is wise as well as our responsibility to positively impact secular society. Secular culture needs Christian influence. Christians together are to impact society for the overall good. And most of that impact will come from Christian friendships, Christian families, and Christian marriages stepping up to help their unbelieving acquaintances and communities. Nothing can beat personalized love. Church programs are good, but they can be more organizational than personal.

We come in contact with those who do not believe as individuals as well as in our Christian friendship groups, Christian families, and Christian marriages. We relate to outsiders in our neighborhoods, at work, and during recreation. We have many opportunities to show them God’s love. Especially important is to show interest in them and their lives. We can open their hearts to us if we want the best for them and say so in response to what is going on in their lives. This will draw them toward us where religious talk too soon will drive them away. They will come to respect us, and then God might draw them to Himself through our love for them.

But, sometimes it is not so easy. It is then that we need each other if we are to live wisely and gain the respect of those who are uncomfortable around us, oppose us, or despise us. It can be particularly difficult and complicated to maintain a loving response to criticism, derision, and occasional outright attacks from outsiders, especially those with whom we have close relationships.

It is very important for us not to avoid difficult interactions with outsiders, but we must have one another’s help to relate with wisdom in order to gain respect. God will give us the wisdom we need through His inspiration in those in our Christian Inner Circles.