Unfortunately, many professing Christians in our day seem to go out of the way to make the faith “cool” to the non-Christian world. This can involve anything from making a worship service seem like a concert venue or other form of entertainment to denying cardinal doctrines that are offensive to the world around us. In many places the church has failed to be salt and light (Matt. 5:13–16), letting the world take it over instead of it retaining its distinctiveness.
Such persons have clearly erred in their attempt to reach the lost; however, it does not follow that we should be completely unconcerned with how the watching world sees us. In many places, the Bible encourages us to remember that the world is watching and to conduct ourselves appropriately (1 Thess. 4:9–12; 1 Peter 2:12). We are never to compromise the truth, but we are to live knowing that unbelievers do judge us and our religion by our deeds.
Paul has this principle in mind when he counsels Timothy to have the young Ephesian widows remarry. You may recall that in days past we spoke about the “new Roman woman,” the lady who embraced a worldview that was akin to modern, radical feminism. The larger pagan society frowned upon the “sexual freedom” and disrespect for traditional authority evidenced in the lives of these women, and it appears that many of the young widows in Ephesus were using their singleness in similar ways. When Paul encourages these young women to remarry, bear children, and manage their households (1 Tim. 5:14–15), he is not only reminding us of some of the tasks given to women elsewhere in Scripture (Prov. 31:10–31), he is also encouraging them to live in a way that the wider world would have appreciated. This kind of life would have commended the teachings of Jesus to the wider culture.
On account of the young widows’ scandalous behavior, the Ephesian church was being slandered (1 Tim. 5:14–15), and insofar as it would not require them to compromise the truth, the apostle called the Ephesians to correct this problem through living in a way the wider culture might esteem. God calls us to live this way today, although never in a way that would compromise the gospel.
When missionaries enter a new culture, they have to adapt to their audiences in order to preach the gospel intelligibly to those in need of salvation. We must do the same, but we must be ever cautious that we do not compromise the unchanging truth of God’s Word, the holiness of God, or the other basic teachings of Scripture in doing so. Ask the Lord to show you how to live out His truth in this present evil age.