What If My Closest Friends Are Not Christians?

At the moment, I find forming friendships in church quite challenging. Moving to a new city, as well as health issues, is probably part of the reason. I also have trouble connecting deeply with people at church, even though I join small groups, volunteer for service, and participate in church events.

My old friends, however, are still like family to me. Most of them are former teaching colleagues, and a few I know from my former church. Our friendships span a period of 16 years. Though our bonds have been tested through many seasons—job changes, marriage, sickness and death—we remain dear friends. When it is time to rejoice, we dance; in times of sorrow, we hold to each other and cry. We have grown up together.

None of my friends attend my current church. Most of my friends aren’t even Christians: in fact, some of them are atheists. One of them has even embraced the goth lifestyle.

Does that make it okay then, that l am closer to them than people l know in church?

 

Who Did Jesus Befriend?

Some well-meaning Christians have suggested that I give up these friendships. While I certainly put time and effort into making friends at church, I definitely do not think it is necessary to give up my friends outside of church. After all, Jesus was diverse in his interactions with people as well. He not only spent time discipling the Twelve, but He associated Himself with children, tax collectors, lepers, as well as others considered socially inferior. He sought to draw them to the kingdom of God. Why then, should we limit ourselves to being involved only with people from church?

Just like Jesus tried to draw people from various backgrounds into His kingdom, so too, we can try to bring our friends into the church family. After all, the Great Commission commands that we share the gospel with our fellow man (Matthew 28:16-20).

For example, I invite my friends to church, and they enjoy themselves when they are there. l use discernment to determine the right moment to broach Christian-related subjects. It means stepping into unfamiliar territory for all of us and exploring deep-rooted issues, but l love how open-minded my friends are. More often than not, my friends talk about God of their own accord. I’ve also discovered that I can sometimes be a more effective ambassador for Christ through the way l live my life as a Christian, rather than through using my voice.

 

God Loved Us First

I cherish my friends. Our relationships have a realness to them—the kind of grit and spit that has survived the ugliness of hardship and seen the beauty in each other when we were at our weakest. We share a love which selflessly gives, genuinely wanting to contribute to the happiness of the other. We share a love that deepens through shared experiences and the revelation of life’s lessons. It is a love that does not leave anyone behind.

Our love for each other reminds me of God’s love for us—in His unconditional love, He gave up the life of His precious son Jesus to pay the bond price for our sins on the cross of Calvary (John 3:16). This is the love that breaks chains and sets people free.

I get to love my friends—though they are not all Christian—with the love that God has showered on me. I pray for them and hope that one day, they get to know God’s love for themselves as well.

 

Friendships in Church

While I am incredibly thankful for these friendships God has blessed me with, I am also aware of how important it is to have strong friendships within the church. The depth of my relationship with my closest friends encourages me to reach out and work to build meaningful relationships at church.

Instead of simply trying to get to know everybody, however, I am now focusing on getting to know a few specific people better. I try to keep in mind that we are all imperfect and ask God to help us understand each other.

There are a few women at church with whom I share a mutual sympathy, and we have a similar perspective on faith as well. We now stay in regular contact. We pray for each other and try to get to know each other over coffee. It’s taking time, but our efforts are bearing fruit, and we are opening up more to each other.

In a letter to the church in Colossae, the apostle Paul lists his dearest friends: Jews, Gentiles, cellmates, a physician, and even a slave (Colossians 4:7-18). This extensive list encourages and inspires me to nurture Kingdom friendships with people from all walks of life, so that we might work together towards the glory of God, both within and outside the church.

 

Perhaps you have close friends outside of church as well? I thank God for the deep love you share with them. Do you pray for them? Have you ever considered inviting them to church or small group?  May you keep loving them the way God loves you and me.

4 replies
  1. Winifred
    Winifred says:

    Thanks for this. I felt strongly that I am having more friends outside the faith than usual since I came to Germany in September. Yes I pray for them but I feel I need to do more.
    Thanks for your words. I find it difficult because of the language mixing in the church.

    Reply
    • Madeline Twooney
      Madeline Twooney says:

      Hi Winifred, thank you so much for your comment and your honesty. When l first came to Germany 19 years ago, l had a lot of adjusting to do (I’m British but was brought up in Australia). I understand completely about the language mixing in church – it can get a bit confusing can’t it?
      My prayers are with you that you find more friends in church and that your friends outside of church come to know the love of God through you, precious sister in Christ.
      All my love and blessings,
      Madeline

  2. Charles Wong
    Charles Wong says:

    ‭‭Thank you for your honest and heartfelt sharing, but I’m worried for you by reading your message.

    While it is very important for us to learn how Jesus stepped into the lives of those who are in need, Jesus also told us to be santicified, to be away from the influence of the world.

    We are not Jesus after all, we are His new born baby when we first accepted Him as our savior, we do need to fight back and say “No” to many worldly influence in order to grow, not saying “Yes” to all and “love” to all. Christ is hated because sin is loved. And Jesus did not “befriend” with those pharisees, scribes, tax collectors and so on, Jesus edified and helped them and ask them to follow Him, instead Jesus always befriended and hanged out with 12 disciples and Martha, Mary and Lazarus, those who were dedicated to pursue God and desired a godly lives.

    The heart is so deceitful above all things, don’t be deceived that we are God to save everybody around us, while we must try our very best to pray for them and see if Jesus opens way for us. But to hang out with worldly friends are very dangerous for Christians because it will certainly draw us away from Christ BACK to the world. It’s true, it is so true, it is absolutely true, those well-meaning Christians probably have witnessed it so that they persuade you to cut those friendships. It worries me most when I saw that you have a non-Christian friend with goth lifestyle. Even the apostle Paul said “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”

    Jesus loves you, ask Holy Spirit for guidance and protection persistently, pray that you will not be led into temptation and ask Jesus to deliver you from the evil ones. Make necessary sacrifices to follow Christ. Everything you’ve sacrificed for Christ sake, Jesus will reward you back with HIMSELF, which is the greatest fulfilment of all.

    James 4:4
    Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

    1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:33
    Do not be so deceived and misled! Evil companionships (communion, associations) corrupt and deprave good manners and morals and character.‬

    Proverbs‬ ‭18:24‬
    The man of many friends [a friend of all the world] will prove himself a bad friend, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

    May God bless you.

    Reply
    • YMI
      YMI says:

      Hi Charles, thanks for sharing your concern! The author has been careful to balance her viewpoint of having Christian friends as well as non-Christian friends, and is calling readers to consider friendships can be formed outside of church, while not neglecting that deep relationships should still be formed in the church.

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *