Imagine being friends with a couple for years, spending weekends with them and considering them close friends. However, your relationship became strained when they walked away from their church. Not only does it break your heart because two fellow church attendees left, but because they were your friends.
Your relationship was never the same because you never quite knew how to overcome the barrier of them leaving and maintaining the same intimate relationship you once had. Although that relationship was gratifying for much of your early lives as Christians, it was challenging to lose that relationship. That situation strained your ability to trust people again and your faith. Good relationships with friends can have mutually beneficial effects for both parties.
However, when friends walk away from Christianity, it can be challenging to maintain that friendship. Christians must walk a fine line between allowing their friends to be humans who wrestle with their beliefs and pushing their faith. How do you stay friends with people who have lost faith but keep the relationship intact? Here are some ways to reach out in healthy ways rather than controlling or manipulative ways.
It may sound simple, but prayer is our biggest weapon for reconciliation in any situation. God is a God of second chances and can fix any situation as He sees fit. We can trust that God will do mighty and great things through our relationships if we ask Him to do so. If you’re in a strained relationship with friends who’ve left the faith, take your situation to the Lord.
Be honest and open with God about your struggles with the situation. Bring Him your deepest concerns, fears, and sadness over it. More than likely, you’re grieving because of the loss of your friends’ faith and entering a new friendship season. Ask God to turn around the situation. He can do amazing things on our behalf if that’s His will.
Make a stand.
Tiptoeing around your faith because your friends have lost theirs may be tempting. However, in this situation, the best way to honor God and your relationship is to firmly but gently explain that you won’t stop talking about your church, God, or other elements of your faith because your friends don’t believe anymore. Avoiding the situation altogether may also be tempting because you fear losing that relationship or offending anyone. Still, your friends didn’t consider your feelings when they walked away from Christianity.
Therefore, it’s essential to state that your faith will be a vital part of your life even if your friends choose not to have God at the center of theirs. Simply not discussing something doesn’t make your faith element any less accurate. Furthermore, you might still lose that relationship because your friends feel convicted since they’ve lost their faith and you’ve kept yours. Don’t mistake grace for fear. Take a stand and let them know you’ll still discuss the same parts of your faith.
Have a discussion.
If you feel your relationship is strained due to your friend’s loss of faith, reach out and have a meeting to talk things out. There are different friends for different seasons, but if you consider these friends good friends, you owe it to them to have this conversation about their struggles. Let them express their fears, doubts, and questions about faith and God. Don’t try to debate or convert them, but let them talk, and you listen. God will still be God at the end of the discussion. He doesn’t need defending, and He doesn’t need His followers to try and convince someone else to follow Him. God wants people who want Him. He gave us free will to choose whether we want God.
Honor their decision, but be there for them if they have any biblical reasons for walking away from Christianity. For example, church hurt can be a significant reason people walk away from the faith. Whether it’s a scandal that rocks the church or leaders who fail to handle a situation correctly, this may be enough for people to walk away. Still, it’s not a biblical reason to walk away. Try to see the situation from both sides and do your best to help them see the church’s point of view. Let them see that they only know one side of the story. God knows the situation and how to give justice when it’s due.
Remind them that God is a God of justice and the ultimate judge regarding right and wrong, righteousness and sin. Encourage them to have a grace-based perspective even if they walk away from Christianity. Urge them to see people as humans who make mistakes and sin like they do. Remind them that they’ve made mistakes in the past and want God’s grace and forgiveness just as much as the people who’ve hurt them do. At the very least, get them to forgive those people if church hurt is at the center of their faith loss.
Send them messages.
God is constantly working in our lives, so we must be attentive to see where He is at work. If we’re giving a situation over to God, more than likely, He’s using not only you but also others to speak to His people. For example, if your church pastor gave an excellent sermon you think they may want to hear, send it to them by e-mail or text. Do this with generosity and in love. If your friends ask you to stop, honor their request. You can still post it on your social media feed or send it to other friends to discuss. Ask God to speak to you regarding your friend and ask Him to speak specifically to their situation.
If what you hear from God aligns with your beliefs about the situation, kindly pass the information along. They may not do anything with that information, but knowing someone cares is nice. It also helps them realize that God is real and that even if they’re not practicing their faith, God still loves them and wants to welcome them into His family.
It’s easy to have Christian friends because we know they think, act, and feel like we do. However, having friends who were once Christians and now aren’t will always be a challenging relationship to navigate. Ask God for His help. Don’t compromise being who you are, but send messages to them and let them know you care. Your friends may never return to faith, but you can rest knowing you’ve done all you can to help them. Above all, be a kind friend by lending a listening ear and applying biblical principles to your life so you can be the ultimate example of Christ to them.