Do not try to work together as equals with unbelievers, for it cannot be done. How can right and wrong be partners? How can light and darkness live together? How can Christ and the Devil agree? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? How can God’s temple come to terms with pagan idols? For we are the temple of the living God! (verses 14-I6b)
Does this passage excuse us from the need to do mission work? After all, the people who would be the target for our mission work are unbelievers. And Paul says quite strongly that we are to have nothing to do with them. How did he in fact take the gospel to the Gentiles if he was to have nothing to do with unbelievers?
Actually, this is not what Paul is talking about. He tells his readers not to work with unbelievers (which includes people who aren’t Christian but follow other religions) as if they were equals, that is, as though their beliefs were just as good as those of Christians.
This is one of many places where Paul would upset trendy moderns who see all religions as having their own way of reaching the same truth. Saying that Jesus is the only way to God is very unpopular these days.
Jesus showed us how to resolve this seeming conflict when he spoke to his disciples on the night before he died. ‘Don’t be like the unbelieving world’, he said, ‘but definitely be in it’. We are to care for unbelieving people, befriend them, and gently but uncompromisingly share with them the truth of the gospel. We are to turn their darkness into light.
Father, I thank you for the truth and comfort of the gospel. Please don’t let me cheapen it by watering it down or compromising it when dealing with people who need the truth. Amen.
by Robert Turnbull, in ‘Renewed Hope for each Day’ (LCA, Openbook, 2000)
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