Thursday, July 5, 2012

Friends and Unbelief

A few weekends ago, I took a Sunday off to attend the wedding of a close friend in Tennessee. One of the reasons he is such a close friend is because of some conversations we had a few years ago when he was enduring a crisis of faith. He grew up nominally Christian in an Episcopal church. When I met him during my freshman year of college, I thought he exhibited a very clean, perhaps one could say Christian, lifestyle. He always refrained from alcohol, drugs, and sex. But he was also very unhappy and confused about faith. He was extremely closed off and shy, gave short answers to every question, and rarely smiled. Whenever I brought up religion, he would often say that he could not believe in God without "proof" (he is an engineer, so that should give you a hint as to why this would be a hangup for him). Long story short, his life changed dramatically when he met the girl he married. He started attending an evangelical congregation with her every Sunday, he was happier than I had ever seen him, and he would call me once a month, asking questions about faith. I was pleased to see this transformation that God had wrought in him (even if I did urge him to try other denominations!). I am humbled to have been a small part of it and am excited that we have become closer friends as a result.

I tell my friend's story because he and I share three other friends who are not Christian. They are great guys and mean a lot to me, but I find myself anxious at their unbelief. At the wedding, one of them talked openly about how he and his wife are "agnostics". His unbelief stems largely from his training as a scientist. The other two are well-read in philosophy and consider themselves Nietzschean. I struggle with this because they are already good friends to me. There is not much I would change about them. But yet, I strongly desire for them to know God the way I do.

All of this has made me question myself about why I want them to believe: Is it because of my own southern, evangelical bent? Am I genuinely worried about their eternal souls? Or do I just want them to be more like me? And going further, are these even legitimate concerns? If they are good guys, does it really matter whether or not they make a faith commitment to Christ?

In the end, I have decided that I can't control their faith commitments. I can only control how I love them and how my faith bears fruit in their presence. Yet, because these guys are old, close friends, I'm afraid that I rarely exhibit such behavior. When I am around them, I tend to relapse into my old irreverent, immature, sophomoric version of myself from age 20. And, in many ways, they have shown better Christian love to me than I have to them. For instance, after a particularly rough time in my life, this group of guys gave up their senior year spring break to visit and comfort me for a week. For me, it was a real-life example of the righteousness of the Pharisees being exceeded.

While I still pray for my friends, I also pray for myself. I pray that I may witness to them in a way shaped by the cross, a way that only faith in Jesus Christ can form. Maybe then they will know by my witness. Maybe they will know by someone else's. Maybe they will never know. But I do trust that God is working on them and me in a way that I cannot surmise on my own. After all, I believe he has brought us together, different as we are, in friendship. 


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  2. nice post! i also have wondered in the past why, exactly, i wish some friends were christians. with some of the newer changes in my beliefs, it makes me wonder even more. we should talk about it sometime.