Your friend dropped by the Christian bookstore last week when I happened to be there. Every once in awhile, I get into a conversation with someone who really opens up; who really wants to share something, and this was one of those times.
Your friend has a lot going on inside her. There’s a battle raging between the more conservative values she was raised with, and her desire to be a more progressive, rational humanist, liberal wife and mom. She gets nothing out of church, but she goes to please her husband. She thinks it’s good that her kids are getting some type of faith focus in their Sunday School, but bristles at the absolute exclusivity of Christianity and worries that perhaps they are getting brainwashed.
And then, she has you.
You probably don’t see yourself as such, but you are her one spiritual anchor in a sea of confusion and questions. You are the person she talks about as a Christian influence in her life, more than her husband or any author or TV personality. You are the only Bible she reads.
And you are part of the problem.
First, you leave no room for her questions. Your faith and personal theology are so neatly wrapped up and tied with a bow that you seem to have trouble seeing life from her perspective. This is how it was, is, and ever more shall be would be a statement describing your intransigence. Don’t get me wrong, the scriptures are clear, God is unchanging, and if the buck is going to stop somewhere, solo scriptura is not a bad place to land the plane.
But you need to meet her in the middle if you’re going to bring her back to your starting place. You have to have the conversation. She wants to have the conversation with you. If you don’t have empathy for her situation, you need to at least pretend to have some sympathy for whatever has brought her to her present spiritual state.
She needs to see compassion. She needs to see that God is a God of grace, and that grace extends toward her.
Second, you need to embrace her in a spiritual sense. Instead, you regard her has some toxic influence in your life that should not be permitted. You shut her down when she starts saying things that you don’t approve of or using language you can’t condone in your house. At that point, all you offer her is your own self-righteousness.
You are afraid to listen. Your world is probably saturated with Christian books, Christian radio or podcasts, and Christian television. When your friend starts talking with you, her words are so totally foreign to your everyday experience that you are afraid of being polluted by them. You want to spend your entire Christian life at the conference; at the retreat; at the worship service.
Jesus got his hands dirty. He hung out with political zealots, tax collectors and prostitutes. There’s a lesson there, I think.
Third and finally, you need to invest in an intense study of Christian apologetics. You may be shutting her down at every turn because you have nothing to offer her. The idea of ‘always being ready to give a response’ is lost on you. It’s easier to put your hand in her face and tell her you don’t want to talk about it.
When the gang gets together for a social evening, you win every round of Bible Trivia, but when it comes to discussing your faith with seekers and skeptics, Atheists and Agnostics, you’ve got nothing.
You’ve preached to the choir for so long you haven’t noticed the audience behind your back.
Listen _________, your friend needs you. She needs you to be her link to a world of Christian belief that she is missing right now, but she needs your love and your time and your willingness to enter into her spiritual world.
The Bible can take her challenges. Our doctrine and theology can deflect her doubts. Christian resources can answer her questions.
But right now you are her contact point, and as a team, we’re all counting on you not to drive her away. Or you can continue to make a mess of it, and hopefully somebody else can pick up the pieces.