Do you have one of “those” friends? You know…the type that are really nice and fun to be with, but have no recognition of their terrible breath, or smelly clothing, or that their house stinks from dog pee? Or some other socially unacceptable aspect of their person that they are so used to that they never notice it, but everyone else does? And, because we like them and don’t want to hurt their feelings, we have learned to ignore it, ourselves?
Are we really doing them a favor? Are we being polite at the expense of being a good friend and telling them, lovingly and softly, that they have this “problem” they really need to attend to? I would say, “No!”- if we really like someone who does something (or doesn’t do something) that is affecting their ability to be more acceptable in society (in general), we owe it to them to point it out. Even if it means they may be distressed or embarrassed. In the case of socially unacceptable dress or hygiene, ignorance is NOT bliss. In certain cases, we may be hurting their feelings a little but we may also be saving their life: bad breath can be an indication of gum disease which can cause all sorts of health problems, and failing to shower may cause skin lesions that can lead to infections, and…well, you get the point. We may be doing them more of a favor by being honest with them about their personal hygiene than we are by being afraid to tell them.
As important as personal hygiene is, what about one’s spiritual hygiene? We know people, all of us do, that are socially clean but spiritually filthy. Don’t we owe it to them to help them “clean up” their act, too? Of course we do, but you will find (I am willing to bet) that your spiritually dirty friends would rather you told them they stink and need a shower than that they are sinning and setting themselves up for eternal damnation. They would rather be told they have bad breath and ring around the collar than be told about Yeshua’s sacrifice and how it can save their soul.
So, nu? What do we do? I say we try to help them, no matter what, but we do it intelligently. We need to, first and foremost, not say anything until we provide an example of what we are talking about. People do not accept “Do as I say, not as I do” under normal conditions, so with something as difficult as spiritual issues, they absolutely need to see you practicing what you preach before you can address their lack of repentance. As Yeshua tells us in Matthew 7:5, we must first remove the log from our own eye before we tell our brother about the splinter in his eye.
This doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t say anything until we are perfect- that just isn’t going to happen. What we do is live our own life as best as we can to remain obedient to God’s commandments (i.e., Torah- you won’t find anything new or different from Torah anywhere in the New Covenant writings, since that is all that Yeshua and His Disciples taught), and when we screw up make sure that we admit it, ask forgiveness and do better. This is the example I believe is best to show a non-Believer: we are still human, we still make mistakes, and we aren’t expected to stop having fun, making jokes (they just have to be more acceptable in mixed company, that’s all) or living our lives as we want to. The only real difference being that now we want to live our lives in obedience to God instead of obedience to sin, which means we care about how we live our life, we care about others, we care about doing what is right (even when everyone else seems to be doing wrong) and we are repentant when we mess up. It is a life-long commitment to being better tomorrow than we are today. Both spiritually and socially.
Being “holy” means to be separated from the rest. The Supreme Court said that being separate cannot be equal (Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka-1954), and they were right, but separate doesn’t mean better. We need to separate ourselves just from those things that are not godly. We can still be with the same friends, but we don’t have to partake in things they do which we shouldn’t now; we can still be with family, but we don’t have to partake in events that aren’t spiritually correct (like going to the horse races, for instance); we can still go out on a date, but we won’t stay the night, even if asked. This is what I think is important when telling friends and family about God and their salvation: they are afraid of what they will lose, and we need to tell and show that they don’t really lose anything except what they didn’t need, in the first place.
Don’t worry so much about hurting someone’s feelings when you know they are ignorant of the bad impression they are leaving on others. And don’t be afraid to tell them, as well as show them, the advantages of accepting Yeshua and committing to being holy.
Being holy is harder than being with the rest of the world, but it really does feel better.