We all have friends or family who we all have to tolerate for one reason or another:
- Friends who practice a different religion
- Friends with a different ethnic/cultural background
- Friends who have and practice sexuality differently that we believe is good and right
- Friends who seem to be chronic liars and gossips
- Friends who just make boneheaded decisions
So here’s the question: How do you, as a Christian, influence your friends who look at life and the world from such a different perspective?
Debates are easy to get into, but are rarely effective or helpful. Sure, there are times when a good debate is what the doctor ordered, but I think they’re usually just the “easy way” to act Christian by telling your friends you disagree. Sometimes we just feel like we should make our opinion known, but we don’t know what to say or how to say it so we just blurt out our opinion and the debate begins. The problem with debates are that you aren’t trying to learn anything, you’re trying to disprove your “opponent.”
Here are my suggestions for how to have a Christ-filled impact on your friends and family:
- You keep connected to Christ daily. This should be assumed, but we often forget how important this is because it’s so obvious. If I’m not faithfully walking with Jesus I’m making it very difficult for God to use me. Practice the spiritual disciplines, be faithful to Jesus.
- Pray for your friends regularly. God actually listens to and answers prayer! Plus, if you’re not praying for your friends and asking for opportunities to help your friend know Jesus, then you might be walking past opportunities all the time because you’re not really looking for them.
- Show your friends Jesus’ love in action. Sometimes I think we live like Secret-Agent-Christians: Follow Jesus and do good things, but don’t let anyone know. If people ask you why you do what you do… TELL THEM! If you’re doing it “just because,” then don’t give a “Jesus-answer.” But if you did what you did because of your faith then say so! Remember tolerance works both ways – if you’re humbly following Jesus and your friends freak out then maybe they need to work on being more tolerant too.
- Talk about Jesus. This goes along with #3 above. When you do get into conversations about faith with your friends FOCUS ON JESUS, not on evolution or homosexuality or whatever other hot-button topic comes up. If you convince your friends that God created the world (and people too!), then great: your friend now believes God created everything but they still don’t have faith in Jesus Christ! The Gospel is central to Scripture and our faith… keep it central to your conversations too.
- Remember that Jesus doesn’t approve of or overlook your sin anymore than he overlooks or approves of your friends’ sin. If you’re frustrated that your friend is going going to parties or sleeping with her boyfriend or whatever else, first ask yourself what sin you need to confess and repent of. That doesn’t mean you need to wait until you’re perfect before you lovingly and humbly confront your friend, but it does mean that you remember there are things about you that you could be confronted about too. The Bible teaches time and time again that judgment begins with the house of God, meaning that God’s children are held to a HIGHER standard that non-Christians… so we have no reason to be harder on others than we are on ourselves.
I just love Colossians 3:5-14, because it reminds me who I am (who I am apart from Christ, and who I am in Christ). Read it below here:
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practicesand have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Just look at what we’re told to stop and what we’re told to do. If we could keep this passage in our minds every day I think we’d start to look a lot different… and so would those around us. I think we’d all start to look a lot more like Jesus.