What should the Christian’s relationship with the world be like? At first glance, one might think that the Christian should have no relationship with the world. The Bible sometimes uses the phrase “the world” to describe the enemies of God and His people. One such example is Ephesians 6:12 in which Paul through the Spirit of God warns us, “. . . our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Therefore, one might assume the best relationship is either not at all, or to stand in opposition to the world.
This would seem to fall in line with James’s similar warning in chapter 4 where we learn, “that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” Indeed, a friendly relationship with evil or a level of comfort with the unholy and ungodly things of this world would certainly damage our faith or put our reliance on God or allegiance to Him at risk.
However, to adopt such a view that the world and its people are irredeemable goes against what it means to be ministers (2 Cor 3:6), missionaries (Acts 12:25), ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20), and servants (Rom 16:1) since the mission field itself is not only the weary Christians but also the fertile soil of the world.
In fact, Paul felt the need to clarify in his letter to the Corinthian church that when he wrote about the kinds of people the church members should associate with or avoid, he intended for them to avoid sinners that bear the name of Christ, not all sinful people. He goes on to say that if the message was to avoid all sinful people, “you would have to leave this world.” (1 Cor 5:9-11).
Paul says he doesn’t expect us to be astronauts. He does expect us to be in the mission field, in the messy world we live in, not as friends or allies with evil but as a voice crying out in the wilderness calling people to repentance and salvation (Is 40:3, John 1:23).