Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The ABC’s of Discernment: N is for Neighborhood

Neighborhoods come in many shapes and styles. The buildings may be sleek and ultra-modern or simple and old-fashioned. An area can be primarily industrial, retail, or residential. Some of us thrive in the urban and some of us prefer suburban, while others enjoy the rural or small town.

Whatever the type, whether or not it’s to our taste, we all live, work, and play somewhere, even if in a vacuum like dust bunnies and astronauts. Why is this important? Because the time we spend in these environments will naturally impact us, both for good and for evil. Live where harsh criticism flows freely and you may find the same jumping to your mind, if not your lips. Work among those who want success at any cost, and that mentality could easily infect you.

Now our instant reaction to such environments is to get out, and sometimes, when a place becomes exceptionally poisonous, that is exactly what we need to do. Most of the time, however, such an extreme move is not necessary. Indeed, it may not even be desirable. After all, no place is perfect. We live in a broken world with broken people. We must deal with that wherever we end up—we must practice discernment, separating good from evil, tossing the bad, and storing up the good.

So don’t run from your current position. Study it:

What is good? Almost every place has something positive about it. Find it and imitate it. Think up ways to encourage more the same.

What is bad? Even the best of places has dangerous points. Working exclusively among Christians, for example, can cause you to lose perspective. So what counterbalance can you implement to prevent the bad seeping into your life? How might you encourage the opposite good? E.g. Using the gossip chain to build others up instead of tearing them down.

What are the pervading attitudes/worldviews? Understanding what others think helps you avoid absorbing their views unconsciously and can provide a bridge to talk about God’s truth.

Then as you better discern the environments you interact with and their impact on you, the better you can set the appropriate boundaries so that you might walk in the truth and shine God’s light brightly into the dark world. 

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