Years ago, at a time when I still had many acquaintances but few real friends, I had one very, very dear friend. She did her best to comfort me when I discovered my parents were, in fact, dead. She helped me understand the responsibility my therapist had towards me and I towards him. And, to celebrate my birthday, she even made frozen dinner (it was better she not attempt real cookery) and gave me the kind of toy I was never allowed to play with when I was a child. Once, she even saved my life.
But she wasn’t a friend I could keep and I knew it. Whenever I was discouraged about finding my family, worried about work, or indecisive about whether I should go to an audition, she’d offer to “do a reading” for me. I understood that she was offering me the best she had. And perhaps God had given her gifts of prophesy. But she saw the gifts she might have as hers to control. She believed she should peer into the future so that she and others might have an easier time traversing life.
Whenever she offered to “do a reading” for me, I’d demur. I didn’t want to hurt my friend but I knew divination to be, at the very least, an attempt to circumnavigate the limitations God has placed on us. He has given us this moment and asks us to trust Him. He has not given us permission to map the suffering and good things in the future and then plot an optimal course through. As time passed, I became more and more uncomfortable with my friend’s activities. Though she was wonderful, our ability to be in community was hindered because we walked very different paths. We couldn’t accompany one another because we didn’t share a common goal. Ultimately, I ended our friendship.
Christian community is a Christian thing because of the common goal we share: Christians are striving to follow and become like Christ and to get to heaven. We regularly fall and are oft times reduced to crawling yet as we travel together, one of the most important things we do is encourage one another. Just as CPT Sarah Cudd’s received support to cross the finish line and earn her EFMB in the video below, Christians support each other as we follow Christ. In fact, no matter how much we disagree, we can’t be Christians without each other. We are indispensable to one another.
Years ago, when my life felt like one overwhelming disappointment, I needed people who would remind me that God loved me and that I could trust Him even if my dreams of finding my family never came true. Invitations to peer into the future were a temptation that made living in the moment more excruciating. When all I longed to do was read the last page of the book and make sure it held the happy ending I envisioned, I needed to be reminded that God was calling me to crawl and trust. No matter how wonderful my friend was she couldn’t help me do that because paging ahead in the midst of suspense is the exact opposite of trust.
As long as non-Christians aren’t hindering our faith, they certainly ought to be our friends. We ought to invite non-Christians to participate in most community activities. And we must do so without an agenda. We must not invite people because we plan to convert them. Through loving friendship, we show Christ to those who don’t know Him. When friends ask questions, we must be honest and trust God will use us as He sees fit in their conversions.
Still, there will be times when following Christ will require relinquishing friendships with some non-Christians, often because of our own weakness. We are not to be unequally yoked and that can include friendships too. When following Christ takes us away from some relationships, we need to remember that He will bring us together in Christian community, in His Church. He will prepare us to present His Gospel to a world that is not starving for knowledge of what tomorrow may bring but for His love today.