What if my friends aren’t Christians?

Hello! Welcome to Episode 12 of the Faith Chase Podcast. I’m Heather Tabata, and this podcast is about making faith real in everyday life. Today we’re continuing a series especially for college, but the ideas apply to any point of life we’re in. Last week we talked about six ways to keep the faith. You can check it out here. (If you landed here on the blog and want to hear the post instead of reading the transcript, click here.) This week we’ll think about what to do if we have friends that aren’t Christians.

Making friends is kind of hard, at least if you’re like me. I enjoy being around people, but it’s hard to get to know someone well enough to open up and really become friends. I want to find people I have something in common with so we can share interests. Then some of them aren’t Christians or our faith isn’t very similar. And that doesn’t mean I won’t be friends with those people, but sometimes it does make situations awkward. If our values are different, we may want to make different choices.

So when you’re in a new place or looking for new friends, what can you do?

Let’s think about whether it really matters if our friends are Christians or not.

Our friends can influence us

Ever notice how people in a group start to talk and act alike? Maybe they develop inside jokes or have their own way they say hi to each other? It’s fun to be in a group like that. to feel like there are people who get you.

The think is, groups can also get us in trouble. You know how you and your group of buddies can be hanging out when somebody gets this wild, exciting idea? Maybe you’re going to go get ice cream at ten at night and sit in the park and eat it. Everybody’s laughing and joking around. Little adrenaline rush going. Okay, my idea of exciting is probably a little tame. But you get the picture.

Now imagine if that idea was just a little more scandalous. Maybe you’re going to go get ice cream, go to the park, and spray paint the track. Who’s it going to hurt, right? But if somebody suggests it, who wants to be the first to say it’s not the right thing to do? Somebody’s going to end up looking like a stick in the mud, or everybody’s going to chance getting in trouble together.

Think about your closest friends. Think about what you usually do when you hang out. Where you are. What you talk about. When one of them suggests doing something you don’t want to do. How sure of yourself are you?

Maybe you can say no. Maybe you would. But we can all get swept up in a moment and let the consequences deal with themselves later. Except they don’t. They deal with us.

This is why the Bible says it’s important to be cautious when we decide who to spend time with.

Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” – I Corinthians 15:33

We even need to be careful about the attitudes and personalities our friends have. The way people look at and relate to the world easily rubs off on us. I’ve felt it happen before, both in a good way when the other person was dealing with a situation better than I was, but in a negative way too.

Make no friendship with an angry man, And with a furious man do not go, Lest you learn his ways And set a snare for your soul. – Proverbs 22:24-25

So then, what are we supposed to do? Do we just choose friends who are Christians and avoid everyone else?

We can’t stay completely separate

Isolating ourselves isn’t the answer. It’s not feasible to only see and spend time with people who are Christians. But we do have to be careful about it.

I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. – John 17:14-15

Jesus acknowledged that we would still be in the world; what He wanted was for us to be protected. Sometimes I just want to take my family, move to a mountaintop, and never come down again. But that’s not the way life works. We aren’t here for that. We’re here to be in the world.

We can also be a good influence

And we’re to be in the world to show the world God. People should be able to tell there’s a little something different about us. A little more joy. Trustworthiness and grace.

We’re supposed to live like Jesus would live, and then we can be friends with everyone.

Yes, it’s true people will influence us. But we will also influence them. It’s easier and faster to be brought down than up, so we have to be careful, both in how other people affect us and how we affect other people.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:16

It’ll be hard when that group of friends, even if we’ve picked them carefully, starts heading toward unhealthy choices. Let’s make sure we’re not the one leading that way, first off. Second, sometimes we do have to stand up and say something isn’t right.

Sometimes it means walking away, from the situation at least, if not from a friend or friends. If we’re going to show Jesus to other people, then we have to be careful not to get caught up in what everyone else is doing. Because it’s not just that we’ll have let ourselves and God down; we’ll have let our friends down.

The example we’re sharing won’t mean as much if they see us using bad language, gossiping, taking drugs, being disrespectful, or whatever is going on. When we do mess up, because that’ll happen, it doesn’t mean our ability to witness is done. But we need to make it clear to anyone who knows how we messed up that that wasn’t acceptable and it’s not how we live. Then we need to demonstrate that.

Showing someone how we grow, that a mistake isn’t the end of the road, is a powerful thing.

We need good influences

We’ll be around people who make it hard to say no to the bad stuff. It wouldn’t be temptation if it wasn’t something we wanted. The things that tempt me may be different from what gets to you, but we’ll all have plenty of chances to either give in or lean on God’s strength and shine our light.

Here’s where balance comes in. If we can’t get out of the world, we need to hold light as close to us as we can. That means ours and the light our brothers and sisters have. We need people to help build us up. It’s exhausting when you spend a lot of time with a group of people who make you keep resisting what’s not right. We need to make sure we’re spending time with people who help us choose God.

⁃ Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2

Think about the people who make you want to be a better person. The people who probably aren’t going to get in situations with you that could end in regret. Cherish those people. Be intentional about spending time with them. We build each other up and recharge our spiritual batteries with people who encourage us, and lifting other people up is healthy for us. We just need to make sure we aren’t always needing to be either the strong one or the one being held up.

So let’s be careful who we choose to spend our time with. Sure, we can enjoy companionship with people who aren’t Christians, but it needs to be balanced with time spent with people who are. It’s a lot easier to set boundaries or expectations from the get go than to skew our lives too heavily toward people who make us struggle, because when we mess up we have to re-evaluate. It’s hard to convince people who don’t share our moral code that we can’t do something again that we’ve already done once.

So let’s shine our light and fuel our own with the lights of people we can trust.

That’s it for this episode! Thanks for joining in. Head over to Instagram, Facebook, or chime in here on the website and let me know your thoughts on this episode. What stood out to you? What questions do you have? If you want to stay up to date on events and get a little regular pick-me-up, you can sign up for my newsletter by clicking right here. If you’re enjoying the podcast, don’t forget to subscribe so the next episode can come straight to you, and tell a friend about it. See you next week!

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