James 4:4 - Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
"It's him or it's me." Did you ever have someone say that to you -- someone who was forcing you to choose between two friendships? This kind of thing happens in elementary school a lot. When people get older, the ultimatums tend to shift: "It's me or the bottle. It's me or your gambling addiction. You choose."
There are some situations where you just can't have both alternatives. Active alcoholism isn't compatible with having a healthy, happy family life. Moving to California isn't usually compatible with having a job in New York. Marrying one person isn't compatible with having a sexual relationship with someone else.
And James warns us that being a friend of the world is not compatible with being a friend of God.
What does it mean to be a friend of the world? It is simply to do and think and speak as the world does -- to value the same things that the world does, and to treat as valueless whatever the world does not value. For example, the world generally treats gossip as harmless, even a pleasurable way to build relationships with other people and pass the time. But the Bible makes it clear that gossip is a dangerous, even deadly thing. It can destroy reputations, marriages, even lives. A Christian knows that making up and passing along gossip is against God's will. We face a choice, then -- God's will or the world's?
The same sharp choice turns up in so many other cases. Is it okay to neglect one's family in order to work long hours and become rich? The world tends to applaud this sort of thing. What about having sex outside of marriage? How about cheating on your income tax? Avoiding that odd, unpopular coworker or the neighbor no one likes?
What God wants and what the world expects are diametrically opposed. Do what God wants, and you'll find out soon enough what it means to be an enemy of the world. You're likely to be thought of as crazy, odd, or unpopular. Certain people will see your choices as a rebuke of their own, even if you never say a word. It can get really uncomfortable!
Fortunately, we have something that more than makes up for whatever discomfort or even harm we experience. We have God as our friend -- and even better, our Savior who makes us His own. Who else is like Jesus, faithful to the people He loves even to the point of death? Who else is willing to go, not just one extra mile, but all the way to the cross in order to give us everlasting joy and life? He is a friend worth having.
THE PRAYER: Dear God, make me Your own and live through me, and help me when this results in suffering for me. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
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