An Unequal Friendship
Q: A friend now thinks it’s wrong to be my friend or even talk to me because I’m not the strong Christian she is. I have doubts and problems with belief and rarely go to church. Does anything in the Bible say that God doesn’t want you to be friends with people who aren’t like minded or holding the same morals, beliefs, etc.? She tends to stick to the literal wordings of the Bible rather than what it actually means, and I would be grateful if I could help her realize that God wants us to love everyone.
A: Depending on several things, your friend may or may not be mistaken about Scripture forcing her to abandon your friendship. A literal interpretation of Scripture reveals that God wants us to love our neighbor. However, it also cautions believers to choose their companions carefully.
She needs to evaluate her relationship with God before evaluating her relationship with you. If remaining close to you weakens her faith or encourages her to think or speak sinfully, she shouldn’t sustain the friendship. Paul warned, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’ (1 Corinthians 15:33)” If she fears that your doubts and your attitude toward church attendance will rub off on her, then she’s not prepared to remain a friend.
Yet if she seeks a way to closely follow God’s Word while preserving your friendship, I’ll offer you what you might consider a mixed blessing. On one hand, it’s a powerful stimulus for her to rethink her decision; on the other, it will invite her to “meddle” more completely in your spiritual affairs. In 1 Thessalonians 5:14, we read, “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”
Are you prepared for a concerted effort to get you into God’s house more frequently? Are you ready to have her address you doubts or finding help from others concerning your “problems with belief”? If so, ask her to read this reply to you. Ask her if she truly fears that continuing the friendship will corrupt her “good morals.” Then ask her if she wouldn’t rather elevate the friendship, getting in your face when necessary while also opening her heart to you farther than she ever has.
Keeping this friend might mean inviting her to “admonish” your church attendance or other sinful attitudes and acts. It may involve asking that she “encourage” your faith walk,“help” you during times of spiritual weakness, and “be patient” — not only with you but also with the Holy Spirit, who will work on you through the Word according to His own schedule, not hers. Remind her: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)” Is she ready for all of this? Are you? If so, I pray that you not only grow as friends but also as sisters in Christ.
Along these lines, I answered a previous question about having non-Christian friends in Birds of a (Different) Feather.
Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.
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Walter Snyder is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author of the book What Do Lutherans Believe, and writer of numerous published devotions, prayers, and sermons.
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Newspaper column #585:2