My grown son's recent Facebook status got me to thinking about friends and friendship. My son is a Christian, and he is a very social guy with lots of friends, both Christian and non-Christian. In fact, I believe he has so many friends because he is a true friend himself. He is loyal to his friends, and accepts them for who they are. In a recent post he expressed joy for his friends, and then stated something surprising for a Christian to say when he said, "especially my non-Christian friends as they are the greatest." Now, I know his Christian friends, and they are true believers whom he loves dearly. In fact, many of them are my dearest friends, and they are true friends. And I know some of his non-Christian friends, too--a great bunch of young people. But my son is not the first Christian I know to express such feelings. I find that young people especially (and I'm talking about faithful, God-loving Christians) sometimes seem to be more comfortable around their non-Christian friends than their Christian friends. Why is that? And is there something we can learn here? On the other hand, can it be said that the sweetest friendships for a Christian are among his or her Christian brothers and sisters?
Do non-Christians really make better friends? As I suggested to my son in my Facebook response, it may seem so because often unbelievers are more real and accepting, less judgmental. I think this is especially true when it comes to being real. As Christians, we have a very high standard to live up to: Jesus Christ who is perfect. And sometimes we go around acting like we actually live up to that standard. While we all acknowledge that none of us are perfect, we often act like we are, or at least nearly so. That is, while we all admit that we sin, we don't want anyone to know which ones. So we put on a face, especially in church. We pretend to have it all together, when inside or behind close doors we may be really struggling. We seldom talk about our own personal struggles or failings, because we don't want anyone to know. And from what I've gathered, very few Christians have anyone in their life that they are completely open with or with whom they can go to with their deepest struggles. And so if you crave being real, you just might be more comfortable around those who make no profession to follow Jesus.
On the other hand (am I starting to sound like Tevye?), maybe non-Christians aren't any more real than Christians. Maybe they just have less to hide, since they are not trying to live up to such a high standard. If you are not a follower of Jesus, I'd really like to hear from you on this. What do you think?
In my experience, after 31 years as a Christian, I can say that my Christian friends do accept me for who I am. Some of them know my failings all too well, maybe even better than I do, yet they still love me. But they offer me at least one thing that no one else does: while they accept me for who I am, they challenge me to be better. They accept me but hold me accountable. They encourage me to grow, to change, in fact to be more "real" as a Christian by "really" trying to live like Jesus. And are they real? I think so. At least as real as I am. And I can't ask anymore than that of anyone.