I've recently received a few emails from fellow Christians asking about how they should best handle people in their lives whom they love, but who don't love Christ. A son whose father isn't saved; a man whose wife wants no part of his newfound faith, a woman whose faith strains her relationship with her beloved friend. Like that.
All Christians have in their lives people to whom they are close, but who don't share their faith. I was certainly in that situation after I got Instantly Saved; the Lord did not at the same time sweep my wife off her feet. (She was, in fact, away on a business trip at the time. If you'd like, you can read about that whole incident in Saved in a Supply Closet. I'm So Sure.)
So, for what it's worth, here's my advice on What To Do With the Nonbelievers In Your Life:
There are three components involved in any relationship you have with another person: You, the other person, and the relationship that exists between the two of you. That's all of it, right there: That's the whole Relationship Combo. Nothing in a relationship exists outside those three elements. You handle each of those three things correctly, and everything about that relationship goes well.
So the question is, what attitude--what guiding principle, what constantly motivating emotional truth--should you take care to bring to each of those three dimensions in your relationship with a nonbeliever in your life?
About yourself, be humble.
Toward the other person, be loving.
Toward the relationship that exists between the two of you, be patient.
Humility, love and patience. There is no mountain those three can't move.
Humility: You must keep your awareness of this quality at the fore of your consciousness whenever you're dealing with a nonbeliever in your life. If you fail to do so, you will become strident in your attitude toward them: You will (however subtly) begin preaching to them, lecturing them, telling them what, how, and who they should be. That's not the sort of oil that keeps a relationship running smoothly. We all know we must be humble before God. Let us also not forget to be humble before the people in our lives--each of whom is, after all, an example of God's greatest creation, and made in His image. Remember: You didn't deserve to be saved. Being chosen by God isn't anything to be proud of; it's something to be grateful for. Humble up.
Love: As God loves us, we must love others. Of course that can be difficult--look at what it cost Christ to be unconditionally and absolutely loving towards all of us. If our Lord can suffer that, we can suffer whatever psychological or emotional pain it causes us to remain loving towards any person in our life--and especially toward any nonbeliever, for whom we can trust God has a special interest. God counts on us to love others, to be his loving agents on earth. Simply love the nonbeliever in your life. Christ will take it from there.
Patience: This is God's world, not ours. We keep time; we have watches and calendars and clocks and so on. God sits at the heart of eternity. I think it's safe to say he's not wearing a wristwatch. When it comes to the relationship between you and a nonbeliever--and especially with a nonbeliever to whom you're necessarily close--be patient. Wait. Never stop waiting. Have no agenda. Let God's will, in God's time, shape the relationship between you and the other person. When you're involved in a relationship with a nonbeliever, you are involved in one of the most important, precious dynamics given to any believer. Don't try to take the wheel of that relationship; don't start driving it in the way you think best. Give God the wheel. All you have to do with your nonbeliever is climb into the backseat with them--and then, side by side, the two of you can just enjoy the ride.
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Next time: More Killer Woody!