Meet the Challenge of Your Environment
WHY should you want to meet the challenge of your environment? Because creatures that cannot meet the challenge of their environment die; the challenge must be met if one is to continue to live. In fact, if you are to enjoy a measure of health and strength, to keep making progress, to keep from becoming frustrated, you must, at least in some measure, meet the challenge of your environment.
In our very bodies we have examples of how the challenge of environment can be met. As you know, the higher the altitude the less oxygen there is in the air. The human body meets this challenge of high altitude by increasing the number of red corpuscles in the blood. People living in high altitudes generally have larger hearts. Similarly people living in the tropic zones have more pigment in their skin to protect them from the sun’s rays, which there beat down more directly.
You Can Protect Yourself
Today not only is the selfishness of man making his physical environment more and more unwholesome, but, more importantly, man’s mental and moral environment is also being polluted by men without moral principles. We are quite limited in avoiding or correcting the physical pollution surrounding us. But what about the moral pollution? Can we meet the challenge that this represents? Yes, we can. How? Basically by guarding our hearts and exercising self-control.—Prov. 4:23.
Discussing man’s relation to his environment, the late Dr. Alexis Carrel, Nobel Prize-winning biologist, in his book Man, the Unknown states: “Each individual has the power to modify his way of life, to create around him an environment slightly different from that of the unthinking crowd. He is capable of isolating himself in some measure, by imposing upon himself certain [physical] and mental disciplines . . . of acquiring mastery of his body and mind.” Yes, men have a natural ability to shut out from their minds certain things surrounding them. But this natural ability is not enough. One needs the aid of God’s Word of truth and his spirit to overcome in a bad moral environment. This is vital to the Christian who is in the world but not a part of it.
Of course, as far as it is possible, it is in the Christian’s interests to stay away from or leave an environment hostile to his spiritual well-being. ‘Bad associations do spoil useful habits.’ Wisely God’s Word counsels: “Do not have companionship with anyone given to anger; and with a man having fits of rage you must not enter in, that you may not get familiar with his paths and certainly take a snare for your soul.”—1 Cor. 15:33; Prov. 22:24, 25.
But a Christian may have to earn his living by working alongside such kinds of people. And nearly all Christian youths are thrown in close touch with bad associations in school. Then again, a Christian man or woman may have an unbelieving mate who is selfish if not also immoral. All such comprise the environment of Christians and are a real challenge.
How to Meet the Challenge
The Christian witnesses of Jehovah have demonstrated time and again that this challenge can be met. Very notable was their conduct in concentration camps in Nazi Germany, Russia and other lands. The conditions, the environment of these camps, were such as to degrade most of those incarcerated in them. But of Jehovah’s witnesses, Professor Ebenstein wrote, in The Nazi State, that “each member seems to be a fortress that can be destroyed but never taken.” They not only met the challenge of such an environment, being ‘like rocks in a sea of mud,’ as another author expressed it, but were even able to influence others to adopt a better, a Christian, way of life.
Although today there are comparatively few Christians in concentration camps, nearly all of them are living in a hostile environment that represents a challenge. A Christian may be discriminated against, taunted or ridiculed because of his race, nationality or religion. How shall he react? Withdraw into his shell, as it were, become bitter and resentful? Or give way to violent outbursts? That would not be meeting the challenge successfully but would represent defeat. To meet the challenge and come off victor he will have to imitate Jesus, of whom it was written: “When he was being reviled, he did not go reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go threatening, but kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously.”—1 Pet. 2:23.
Or a Christian’s environment may be extremely immoral. Those about him at his place of employment or at school may be using obscene speech, be telling filthy stories. How can he successfully meet this challenge? Certainly not by sharing in such talk, being amused by it, nor by giving it a curious ear. Again God’s Word gives good advice, saying: “Keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord; and quit sharing with them in the unfruitful works that belong to the darkness, but, rather, even be reproving them.”—Eph. 5:10, 11.
At times a Christian may find his fellow employees stealing goods from their employer or loafing on the job. To avoid accusations of being ‘overly righteous’ or ‘trying to show others up,’ may he join in with such practices? Not if he wants to be pleasing to God.
What will aid Christians in meeting such challenges? One thing is replacing the fear of men with trust in Jehovah. (Prov. 29:25) To have that trust a person must feed his mind by regularly studying God’s Word, and strengthen his heart by meditating on it, and keep associating with others who seek God’s guidance.