By Rex Stepp
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?
It was a two hour flight from Phoenix to Dallas and I was sitting in 12F…window seat…I prefer the aisle but at least it wasn’t the middle. That was taken up by Jason, a rather slight early teen who turned out to be articulate well beyond his years. In the aisle seat was an elderly, but spry, great-grandmother named Elda who had grown up in a Presbyterian church in Kansas.
Before we even reached cruising altitude, Elda and I both know that Jason loved hockey, followed politics better than most grown-ups, had a dad that went to WestPoint (where he jumped out of planes), and that Jason was a committed Christian. We knew that, because out of the blue he asked in a confident yet non-judgmental way, like he was asking what our favorite of ice cream was, “Are you both Christians? I am.”
Turns out, he was in luck. Elda and I both answered in the affirmative.
“Well,” he asked turning his head side to side to make sure we knew he was asking both of us, “do you think it’s important that all your friends are Christians too?”
“What a great question.” I thought.
“I have a friend who says he’s an agnostic,” Jason continued, “and I’m not sure if we should still be friends.”
Once again, Jason was in luck…Elda and I both had experience in that department and we both had similar answers.
Part of living out our faith is sharing it by the way we live and the things we say. But there’s a limitation in the depth we can ultimately have with friends that don’t share our faith in Christ. The more you have in common with someone, the more you like being with them. And the more you share the ‘weightier’ things of life, like your faith and value system, the deeper you’re able to become connected to that person.
Think of your life as journeys down a bunch of paths. The person that doesn’t share a faith in Christ with you isn’t able to walk that part of the path with you. It doesn’t mean your friend is less valuable or that your friendship can’t make you both better people, but it does mean that there is a limit in the depth of your connection with that person.
Elda had a friend from childhood that was now in his 80s but considers himself an agnostic. I have a longtime friend that feels the same. In both cases, we enjoy those friendships and value the people, but there’s a limit to our depth with them.
In the end, our advice to Jason was this…show friendship, kindness, grace, love and selflessness to his friend…be “winsome” so he can “win some” to the faith. The gospel is all about a relationship with Jesus and is best demonstrated to people through relationships they may have with believers.
Jason seems pretty well grounded in his faith, and will undoubtedly have a positive impact on his friend, but we both gave him an added caution. Your own relationship with God is the most important thing you have. You have to remain true to that relationship, and sometimes you may have to make a choice to follow your faith rather than your friends.
What can I do today?
Do you have friends that are not believers? If not, find some. Be a friend, show kindness, and let them see that faith in God makes a difference in how you live. By living out your faith alongside them, you may be able to lead them to a relationship with Jesus.
Do you feel you’re being influenced to do wrong by non-believing friends? If so, look for friends that share your faith and work to deepen those relationships. Sometimes it’s just easier to stay on a good path if you have a likeminded friend walking with you. That’s why community is so important in living out your faith. Any friendship that asks you to deny your relationship with Jesus isn’t one you should pursue.