Godly Influence In A Worldly Atmosphere

I have often pondered the issue of how a Christian can survive in an worldly atmosphere. I wrote the article, “Sitting in the back of the bus” as a warning of how evil companionship can corrupt good morals. Yet as long as we live in this world, it is impossible for us to avoid worldly associations. The apostle Paul stated this truth in 1 Cor. 5:9-11: “ I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world.” Paul went on to explain that his first statement was referring to people "inside" the church, for the church has every right to judge those within its own fellowship. (see 1 Cor. 5:11-13).

As to associating with the people of the world, it is impossible, in our various vocations and activities, not to have contact with such people. In fact, Christians not only have a duty to associate but also to become a positive influence to those living around us. The real question is how can this be accomplished without the Christian being influenced by the world? First, I would say that it is impossible if we are not receiving strength from Christ and from godly people. As Christians, we have a dependence upon Christ as well as an inter-dependence on others who are following Christ (see John 15:1-4; Heb. 10:25; 1 John 4:7). From this comes our basic strength to go into the world and become the light of the world. Paul wrote: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,” (Phil. 2:14-15). Early in my career, I did do some grumbling about the atmosphere of the game, but a good friend chided me, “Lindy, if you only associated with angels, you couldn’t do them any good! So it is a good thing that you associate with those who need your help!”

Here are some practical suggestions as to how we should deal with the people of the world. First, look at every individual as being important in the eyes of God, since every man has been created in God’s image (See Gen. 1:26). Treat every person you meet with respect, regardless of what you think of his lifestyle, knowing that you also have sinned and do not deserve the grace of God (See Rom. 12:16; Titus 3:1-5). Do not return evil for evil, but overcome evil with good (see Rom. 12:18-21). Do not allow anger and bitterness to rule your heart (see Eph. 4:31). Be proactive in finding constructive ways to relate to your friends and neighbors. Learn to share in their sorrows and rejoice in their accomplishments (see Romans 12:15). The best way to relate to people is meet them on their emotional levels. Since every person has sorrows and joys as a human being, learn to feel both their joys and their sorrows. Learn to use appropriate speech that builds bridges rather than destroys relationships (See Col. 4:6 -- this can be done in all kinds of ways without compromising faith in Jesus Christ). These are some of the “good works” that glorify Christ.

Since baseball can be a roller coaster of emotional “ups” and “downs”, I learned to sincerely compliment the good and take time to encourage those who were down. You would be surprised how much jealousy there could be on a ballclub where every person is competing for a job. And without being a “busybody in other people’s business” you can show a genuine interest in family, kids, etc. I am not saying that I was perfect by any means in doing any of these things, but I had to learn from experience how to conduct myself in an ungodly world. Such things go a long way in influencing others without you having to be one of the “good old boys” in using worldly language, telling smutty stories, or engaging in immoral conduct. Peter admonished, “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12). This can be done while at the same time we are to “abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). When you show respect in the ways mentioned here, then you will also gain respect. What people do not respect is pretending to be righteous when in fact you are not.

Christians must be careful not over react to what the world does. By this I am not suggesting that the Christian should not blush nor feel anger at man’s inhumanity to man, but the world is going to do what the world has always done. The apostle John wrote: “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” It was John who consistently contrasted the world with the Christian (see 1 John 2:15-17; 3:1, 13; 4:4-5, etc.). But in confessing this, we do not need to join a convent, live in a cave, or join some commune to keep the world outside. We should not become influenced and hardened by the world, but, rather, we should to learn how to relate to sinners (since sin is our universal common experience – Titus 3:1-3). Yes, the world will do its thing, but we are called to do our thing. As Paul wrote: “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). It just so happens that the weapons at our disposal are a lot more powerful (see 2 Cor. 10:3-5). As a footnote I might add that with both the Yankees and the Royals, I was selected to be the “player representative” in dealing with owners and matters pertaining to general agreements with baseball.
--- Lindy McDaniel, February 2010

P.S. Photo of me at Yankee Stadium in 1968 on the day I pitched seven perfect innings against the Detroit Tigers. During that span I had retired 32 hitters in a row over 4 games.

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