I have a wide and varied group of friends from different cultures, backgrounds and religions. I have friends who are agnostic and atheist. We all, for the most part, get along, which doesn’t mean we don’t fight, bicker and disagree like any other group of friends.
On occasion, members of my congregation have approached me and expressed concern about my friends. One lovely old lady was convinced exposure to atheism would lure me away from God, while one of our more fervent evangelists insists I should make every effort to bring my friends into the Light of God.
Advocating for God
I’m in no more danger of becoming an atheist than my office chair is of transforming in to the type of heavy duty equipment sold by Warren Parts. The second concern — that I wasn’t actively trying to bring my friends to Jesus — hit a nerve however.
I want my non-Christian friends to come to God, I truly do. At the same time, I know them too well to start preaching to them. My Hindu friend and her family don’t try to convert me to their faith, and in turn, I feel I should respect their religious choices.
While I’ve had both intellectual debates and impassioned arguments with my atheist friends, we both respect each other’s beliefs (or in her case, non-belief). I know, in my heart, proselytizing to her would strain, or even destroy our friendship, and I can’t see how ruining a fifteen-year friendship will bring her closer to God.
Leading by Example
Instead, I think of myself as one of the Lord’s subtler foot soldiers (or as one friend jokingly called me, a ninja Christian). Some Christians are comfortable leading the front lines of evangelism and missionary work. They’re the ones who debate atheists on national television, who are willing to take a forceful stand. I admire them, but I know that’s not how I operate.
Instead, I try to proselytize by example. I try to be the best possible Christian I can be, and to show God’s grace with my actions rather than my words. Which is perhaps just as well — I may have some small talent when I’m wiring, but put me in a public speaking situation and I fall apart. We all have our gifts, and that particular talent just wasn’t give to me.
So I do my charity work. I sing hymns in the shower. I invite my friends to church-led events and charity drives. I compare religions with my non-Christian friends and try to find common ground, which is usually there if you look for it.
One agnostic friend once told me all religions basically boiled down to a single message: be nice to people. His opinion was rather simplistic, but at the same time I’ve found that message does, indeed, permeate most religions. Be nice to each other. Love each other. Care for each other.
Michelle is a blogger and freelancer. She’s written about almost every topic under the sun, and loves constantly learning about new subjects and industries while she’s writing. In her spare time she enjoys spending time outdoors with her dogs. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.