Simultaneously, these friends of ours keep us from getting weird. Question this? Listen to how you talk with your Christian friends and colleagues. Listen to the words you use and the frames of reference that you use. Can you quote Scripture or make Biblical references knowing full well that those in ear shot will know exactly what you’re talking about? If you can do this with every person you spend time with, you need to get some new friends.
We know that not every word Jesus spoke was written down because the whole world couldn’t contain the books that would be written if that were true (see what I did there?), but of what was written down, how much of it was in parables? Jesus knew He had to make references to things that anyone could understand. If it is difficult for you to make normal conversation with perfect strangers, you seriously need to be intentional about making new friends. Be in the world, just not of it. Jesus did not say, “Be in the Church.” He said, “Be in the world.”
I don’t need to watch the Bachelor or the Bachelorette (nothing against either of them) because when I talk with my friend who was once married to an abusive Christian man and is now struggling in her dating life, my heart breaks for her. I can’t use Christianese with her because it will fall on deaf ears. And frankly, I would rather sit with her and walk with her in the midst of her tears, then sit around and discuss theology and think through all the ways I can be a better Christian any day.
How would you answer these questions: Do you know the true pain of those who have no hope? Do you know what it’s like to not believe in a Creator or God? Do you know what it’s like to not believe that Someone could love you unconditionally? Do you know what it’s like to be stuck in a self-destructive cycle because you don’t believe there is a way out? Do you know the real struggles and questions of those who have no relationship with God? While these questions are raised in churches all across the world, they are even more urgent for those that ask them because they have never known Jesus and sit outside the walls of our churches. When was the last time you discussed them with a non-believer?
If I was weird and un-relatable, my friend would’ve ditched me long ago. With her, I’m forced to be authentic and talk about myself and my life. There’s no façade to hide behind, because she would see right through it. She helps keep me grounded and is someone I have to be real with. Because of my friendship with her, and others who are not Christians, my ability to relate to most anyone is increased significantly. Not to mention my ability to relate to those who are Christian and would rather focus on talking about real life issues than debating theology.
If we, as leaders, do not have authentic relationships with non-Christians, how can we for a moment believe that those we lead will? And if we don’t, and they don’t, who does? The benefit of these friendships is mutual: we get to be light in their darkness and they help keep us grounded in reality so that we can see where the Kingdom of Heaven has yet to come.
My prayer this week is that God would help us to have more authentic relationships in our lives and that we would intentionally seek out the kind of relationships in our lives that are lacking.