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How should we as Christians relate to our friends who are not Christians?

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How should we as Christians relate to our friends who are not Christians? —Sophie.


Tiffany Answers:

Dear Sophie,

You raise a very good and compelling question, one that many people at some point need to come to terms with. Either you grow up in a church bubble, attending church school (or maybe home school) from elementary until college and develop your first friendships with nonbelievers when you enter the workforce, or you grow up as a Christian attending a public school and trying to fit in. Or perhaps you are a new convert or a recommitted Christian and are trying to relate to your old, perhaps non-Christian, friends who “knew you when.” Whatever the case, since we live in a world in which there are many people who don’t share our beliefs, we are going to have to learn to relate to others. And since Jesus commissioned us in Matthew 28 to go into all the world, it’s a downright imperative.

Thankfully we have a really good example in terms of being a Christian relating to non-Christians. The New Testament is filled with stories about how Jesus related to the unbelievers and “undesirables” of His day. From the stories of Mary Magdalene, Zacchaeus the tax collector, and the woman at the well, we see consistently how Jesus didn’t shy away from these individuals as most believers did. At the same time, He didn’t taper down what He believed when He was around them. Jesus was about His mission at all times and was consistent about His fervor for this whether he was around His believer peeps or His nonbelieving ones.

We can use how Christ related to others as a mirror for our own behavior. First of all, since temptation can come to us from others, non-Christians and Christians (don’t sleep), it’s important that we stay in communication with our heavenly Father so we can be about His business. Through this communication He’ll give us wisdom on how to relate to others, and it will make us all the more resolute in our beliefs, so that we aren’t too quick to stray. Be friendly and loving to everyone. If people truly care about you as a friend, they are going to respect that you have beliefs. You always want to be friends with those who lift you up and don’t constantly try to tear you down. If you say “Hey, man, I don’t think I’m going to be down for that; it’s not my scene anymore” when someone suggests something that goes against what you believe, then they should back off. If they keep pressuring you to do something, or they say “Man, you’ve changed—you’re no fun anymore,” chances are they weren’t that great a friend to begin with. While you wish them well, it’s better to move on from that person. While God does give us strength to handle temptation, it doesn’t help if we keep flinging ourselves in its way.

Some who find your beliefs a little too much to chew may back away on their own. It happens, and you may not have done anything to alienate them other than by simply being Christian. Each person has their own rate of growth. Respect their decision to move on and pray for them.

Please remember that there is a thin line between trying to help and uplift your friends and being judgmental of them. Before offering reproof or “friendly advice,” prayerfully consider if this is the right time and place. If they ask for advice, by all means share. I know someone who has a friend who has adopted some very New Age philosophies about life. This New Ager constantly chastises her about how she hasn’t “evolved” or tells her that she’s buying into the “system,” basically making her feel stupid because she doesn’t believe the things her friend believes. Having beliefs forced down the throat can be hard to take, especially if the person on the receiving end has strong beliefs otherwise. God will guide you as to when/where/how to share your beliefs with your friends. And make no mistake, sometimes just standing your ground and living your beliefs is more of a witness than you could ever realize. Let God guide your footsteps, and you can’t go wrong. Praying for you!
 



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