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What a friend

September 16, 2012

Some time ago my wife met a woman with whom she hit it off right away.  She told me that this new acquaintance was friendly, funny, outgoing and nice and that they had agreed to get together again soon.  I remember her saying “I think she and I could be friends.”

Their second time together went well too, and again, Peggy enjoyed it.  However, near the end of the time together, the woman mentioned that, for a living, she sold cooking and kitchen equipment at in-home parties and mentioned that “maybe someday” Peggy could host such a party.  In a later conversation, Peggy agreed.  A short time later the party took place and all seemed well. 

After the party however, while the woman was still polite, it was clear that her goal had been met, Peggy had hosted the party.  The friendship cooled.  It was hardly a devastation, Peggy has plenty of friends, but it was clear that, for this women, the friendship was a means to an end; she was selling something.

I think about that in relation to evangelism sometimes.  I’ve read books on friendship evangelism, some quite good.  I am also comfortable bringing up matters of faith in the context of my friendship with non-Christians.  But if I was to, as one book put it, “intentionally form a relationship for the purpose of evangelism” I’d feel a little too much like that woman, that I was “selling” the Gospel.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see all my friends come to Christ.  I am not afraid to tell them so.  But I sure hope that they understand that I like them and want them as friends, and that they will remain my friends, even if they don’t accept Christ.  To this end, I don’t see every minute of every encounter as a “witness opportunity.”

I like having non-Christian friends.  They help me see things in a different light.  They refine my faith by challenging it.  They keep me from living in a Christian ghetto.  I can’t ever see dropping, or even cutting back on, such a friendship because I have failed to win them to Christ.

But somewhere along the way I’ve picked up this nagging inner doubt about simply being a friend to unbelievers.  Maybe somebody told me that their bad habits would rub off on me.  Maybe I wondered if being around them is “casting pearls before swine.”  Maybe somehow I came by the belief that salvation of the lost is the only important thing in such a relationship.

I’ve seen times when God has opened doors to witness in ways that stun me.  I’ve had opportunities to share my faith that send chills down my spine.  But more often, indeed much more often, I end up just having a nice talk with someone I like.  Is that so wrong?

What about you?  Do you ever have such doubts?  Do you ever find you sometimes just like hanging out with someone, even if they are not a Christian?

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From → Christianity

4 Comments
  1. Hi Tom,
    I couldn’t agree more. Anything which is done with an ulterior motive is manipulative. I have strong feelings against preaching to a captive audience and a false friendship creates a captive audience. By captive audience I mean springing a gospel message upon an audience assembled for some other purpose. And, yes, I have no problem being friends with non-believers — they know where I stand without me making a point of enlightening them, it’s something that just comes through.

    Jessop.
    .

  2. Not that I haven’t been guilty of that in the pasts, mind you, but we learn as we reflect upon our actions.

    Jessop.

  3. I so get this. When we “play act” to gain a spring board into evangelism, we are literally hypocrites. Deceit used to introduce the truth seems like a conflict of intrest to me. We need to be friends – real friends, and preach and live the gospel.
    Thanks for the post – very good!
    Ben Nelson

  4. sonsurfer7 permalink

    I think we can all agree that deceit in a relationship is a bad thing. But there are other issues. There are some people we spend time with not so much because we like them or even enjoy the time with them, but because they need our help or our “good influence”, if you will. If we are honest with ourselves and the other person, is that wrong?

    Leaving aside a relationship that starts that way, but where it turns out that we are instead being corrupted by their bad influence (in which case we must leave the relationship), what about when we just reach the conclusion that our efforts are not helping. Can we end that relationship? Should we?

    What about our so-called “free” time? Do we associate only with people we like? Won’t that likely lead to the “Christian ghetto”? Is that wrong?

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