What are the spiritual beliefs of your friends? Do they help or hinder you? Is it okay for a follower of Jesus to have non-Christian friends?
I remember how difficult my teenage years were. Struggles with identity, confidence, acne, dating…the list goes on. Some of them continued into college. After college, God called me to work in Chi Alpha Campus Ministries, which provided helpful staff training to along with my enthusiasm and hope. Not to mention a willingness to listen and learn, as well as a good work ethic.
I have enjoyed being around college students, listening, caring, serving, mentoring, and pastoring them through various situations. Students would open up about all sorts of stuff now and then. I enjoyed hearing them ask questions about God, faith, and Scripture.
One time a student asked me to join him for a dorm Bible study late at night. I figured that with all the destructive temptations students faced on campus, a Bible study led by other students could not be too bad, right? My first impressions were of friendliness and hospitality. A warm welcome, inspiring worship led by a student on his guitar, and a lot of good snacks. So far, so good.
They believed, as I did, that Scripture was 100 percent true. But a short while into their presentation to those assembled, I learned their real reason for meeting. They wanted to suggest-argue-and-convince students of other things they thought were essential and needed to be added to Jesus’ death on the cross for salvation. Using a few verses out of context (it’s called proof-texting), they said there was conclusive evidence that they, and a new church in town, were the only ones who “had” this new truth.
Some good things came out of this encounter and their effort to “convert” me to their line of thinking. First, I had a chance to push back on their poor handling of Scripture in the meeting; second, it opened up an initial conversation that night and a subsequent series of follow-up discussions with the student leaders and some of attendees; third, the student leaders asked me to meet with their church pastor, whom refused to do so; last, I realized the training Chi Alpha Campus Ministries provided had showed me how to study and interpret the Bible and the different genres (i.e., kinds of literature) within its 66 books. I had been taught me how to recognize and respond to groups that twist the Scriptures.
Read 1 John 3:23-4:3.
The apostle John did not want Christians to accept everything they heard from teachers who purported to “preach the truth.” John said to, “test the spirits, to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1). Dr. Luke taught Christians not to assume anyone was excused from scrutiny. He commended the church at Berea for searching the Scriptures to verify what Paul and Silas had been teaching (Acts 17:11).
Walk wisely. There is nothing wrong with having friends or even Christians who do not believe exactly as you do. Yet not every Christian has Christ’s interests in mind. Ask God for discernment to choose between “wolves” and true Christian friends.
Love is a verb,
©2018 by Mike Olejarz