July 30 is the International Day of Friendship. One website discusses this day: “We live in a tough world. Between miscommunications, mistreatment, lack of trust, discrimination, and cultural discord, prioritizing peace seemingly has less of a presence in the global society…We were first introduced to International Day of Friendship in 2011; this special day goes beyond connecting people and builds bridges among cultures, countries, and even ideologies.” https://nationaltoday.com/international-day-of-friendship/
How do we share our faith with our friends without turning them away? To ask the question implies that there is something inherently off-putting in sharing our faith with others. However, friendship should allow us to express who we are, right? If my friends can share their thoughts and beliefs with me, I should be able to do the same – not by “right,” but just from the nature of friendship. Now, there have been plenty of times that people have shared their faith in decidedly unfriendly ways. I’m not trying to justify that! But if our faith is important to us, why would a friend expect us to act otherwise?
There are two aspects to “sharing faith” that we have to recognize and distinguish. Some people think of “sharing their faith” solely in terms of telling someone else why they’re “on the wrong path.” At some point I may need to do that, although I’ve found that the Holy Spirit is better at that than I am! (See John 16:8.) The other aspect of “sharing faith” involves allowing my faith to show through. If Jesus is truly present in me as I believe he is, my friends will know it – and at some point, they’ll want to know more.
It’s important to understand that although I am a follower of Jesus, I’m not limiting this idea of sharing your faith to Christians. I have a number of friends who don’t share my faith. I should be open to listening to them and understanding what they believe if I want them to listen to me. “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12, NLT).
But friendship means far more than just “listening.” Love is not simply an emotion; it is an action, a commitment to another person. Unfortunately, we’ve probably all experienced a time when someone repeatedly told us that they loved us, but their actions proved otherwise. We all have expectations of how someone will act if they truly love us.
The problem is that every person has their own expectations, and we don’t always agree on what is required to show love to another person! That’s where the teachings of our faith come in. After Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and the second was to love your neighbor as yourself, someone asked him, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered by telling a story that we know as the “Parable of the Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:30-37). The “good Samaritan” loved his neighbor by bandaging his wounds, taking him to safety, and paying for his care.
In Romans 12, Paul talks about the call to love one another: “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other” (Romans 12:9-10, NLT). Note that Paul specifically mentions “hating what is wrong” and “holding tightly to what is good.” That doesn’t mean that we hate people who are doing wrong; it means that we hate the wrong and what it is doing to them.
There is a commercial on TV right now that talks about Elton John’s foundation and its efforts to prevent the spread of AIDS. At the beginning of the commercial, he says: “If you have ambition and if you have heart and you want people to be saved and to have a better life, then you don’t stop.” Why? Because you want something better for them than what they have.
That’s exactly what motivates believers to share their faith with others. It’s not a matter of being “better” than someone else. D.T. Niles once said, “Christianity is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread.” What does that mean? It means that if I’m really your friend, you’ll meet Jesus through me. If I’m really following Jesus, you won’t be able to help meeting him! I don’t need to “convince” you; I just need to love you the same way Jesus loves me. Jesus calls us to follow his example, and he said that the greatest love you can show is to lay down your life for your friends. That doesn’t have to mean “die for them” – although he did. Sometimes “laying down your life” means being a “good Samaritan.” Maybe it means picking up the towel and the basin and washing your friend’s feet (John 13:4-5).
And sometimes it means telling your friend the hard truth – because you love them. “Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6). Unfortunately, we struggle to understand what “love” is. Love is not telling people what they want to hear if what they want to hear is harmful. “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:6-7, NIV). Love means that I want what is best for you, even if it’s not what you want.
That’s not so hard for us to understand. We do that with our kids; sometimes they ask for things and we have to tell them “no” because what they want is not good for them. How do they respond? “You don’t love me!” Of course, we do love them – but they don’t understand that in the moment, when we tell them that what they want isn’t what’s best. Sometimes, sharing our faith with our friends causes a similar response.
But here’s the key: if we’ve really been a friend to someone, they should be able to recognize that we’ve always acted in their best interest. If we’ve shown them love, consistently and sincerely, they should understand that we’re not trying to show that we’re “better” than they are. We’re simply trying to show them how much we care about them.
That’s what it means to be a friend! And that’s exactly what Jesus does for us!
Written by: OchriO