I was part of a discussion recently thinking about whether Christians and non-Christians could have real and genuine friendships.
It was interesting.
And it made me think.
Because as much as I believe and value the unique support and spiritual unity that exists between me and Christian family, and as much as I think that the Bride of Christ is stunningly beautiful, and as much as I agree that we should live noticeably different lives as Christians and shine like stars in the cosmos, and as much as I believe that it’s vital to have real Christian accountability and prayer support… I still think that we can have meaningful and genuine friendship with non-Christians.
I really do.
And I think that Jesus did.
Because when He spoke, He said He came for the sick not the healthy, and He said He was here to seek and save the lost.
And Jesus hung out with those who were not acceptable in the synagogue, with the sinners, and the outcasts, and the prostitutes and the tax collectors. He spent time with the broken and the lost. With the children and the women. With those that everyone else rejected, especially the religious.
And He loved us when we were lost and outcast.
And made a way for us to be with Him forever.
He didn’t wait to me to be clean before He invited me into friendship with Him. He invited me, and made a way for me when I was blackened in my sin and my filth, and then when I said ‘yes’ to Him, He made me new.
I remember beginning my formal training to be recognised as an evangelist when I was 18. I was really young to be on the programme and I was sitting in a room full of church leaders, being asked about why I had a passion for the lost. And lots of people had talked quite professionally about their church programmes, and their denominational strategy, and their ‘seeker friendly’ services.
And although I could see and still see the value in all those things, it wasn’t so complicated for me.
I just really loved Jesus. And I really loved people.
I still do.
And I was, and still am, desperate to see people come to know Him as their Lord and Saviour and best friend, and to live in the freedom and forgiveness that He offers.
And I didn’t feel like ‘an evangelist’.
I just knew that throughout my whole life, I had always seen my friends become Christians and allow Jesus to turn their lives around. Holy Spirit just moved. It wasn’t anything I could take credit for.
I talked about Jesus all the time because I loved Him so much, and I talked about Him to others because they needed to know He loved them so much, and because I had the realisation of the reality of heaven and hell, even as a child.
And because on the most part, these people were my friends.
And as I wept for them in intercession, and brought their names and faces to Jesus in prayer, it was because I knew them, I knew their stories and their pain, and I loved them.
And they loved me.
In real and genuine friendship.
Too often I think, I hear Christians talk about evangelistic strategies like they’re some kind of sales pitch. Questions like, ‘How many people have YOU led to the Lord?’ and ‘How many hands went up at YOUR sermon?’
That’s really unhelpful.
And truthfully, I really think it misses the point.
Because I would go as far to say, that if as Christians, we don’t have real and meaningful friendships with non-Christians, we’re kind of missing the point.
Our strategies are sometimes great ways for Holy Spirit to direct our corporate meetings and speak to us about what He wants to do, but they become meaningless if we aren’t engaged in real relationships with our communities.
As Jefferson Bethke put it, ‘If grace is water, then the Church should be an ocean, it’s not a museum for good people, it’s a hospital for the broken’.
Jesus was the Son of God, yet He came to seek and serve and save the lost.
He didn’t treat the vulnerable like a fashionable project. He didn’t talk to the outcast like they were part of a bums-on-seats-growth-strategy. And He didn’t forsake real relationships to preach to a bigger crowd.
He loved. He listened. He healed. He brought hope and restoration. And in His light, people changed. They repented. They turned their lives around.
He spoke to crowds, and individuals, and saw the one in the masses.
And I want to be like Him.
We can’t preach to the lost, without being friends with the lost.
And we can’t sit safely in our churches, and still fulfill the call to be lights in the darkness.
It’s just not possible.
I was at a ‘non-Christian’ friend’s house last night, having dinner with some other ‘non-Christian’ friends. It was a wonderful girly evening. We ate an amazing three course meal, dressed up to look pretty for no one but ourselves, and sat up and chatted until the wee small hours of the morning. We talked about everything from God and spirituality, to broken relationships, hopes for the future and embarrassing moments. We laughed, we cried, and we shared. Did I get to share testimony? Yes, of course. But I also got to listen. And I got to love.
These aren’t my ‘non-Christian’ labelled, tick-a-box friends. They are just my friends.
And I didn’t go there with a secret-agenda to witness is a pre-ordained way, I just went to spend time with people that I love, and to be me.
And that me, is a light.
Because He is the Light.
I believe that.
I really do.
Then you will shine like stars in the cosmos, as you hold out the Word of Life (Philippians 2).