Losing Friends Because of Jesus by Tony Miles
“I lost a friend over the whole Josh Duggar thing.”
I listened as my buddy explained how he’d used Facebook to dare others to not to be petty in how they responded to the now-infamous news story.
Apparently, the individual who took offense couldn’t tolerate such a perspective.
Curious, I went to my buddy’s Facebook profile… only the discussion was nowhere to be found. He’d deleted it so as to not antagonize the situation further.
I can’t say I blame him.
Right or wrong, I’ve certainly edited myself in the past when I said something controversial that caused ripples in a relationship.
That’s when the real tension emerges…
truth or friendship?
Not knowing how to navigate this, we often end up doing one of two things:
- In fear, we silence ourselves to a fault: We unknowingly fulfill Aristotle’s summary, “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”
- In exhaustion, we speak liberally to a fault: We become so tired of holding several things in that we presume it’s better to pop everything out.
Christians notoriously wrestle with this.
We think, “I shouldn’t offend, but should try to blend in and appear like everyone else. Then I’ll have the credibility to tell them about Jesus.”
Ironically, by spending so much energy not standing out we suppress everything out-standing about our lives… which saps any credibility we were hoping to build.
It’s as if our primary ethos for life morphs from being ourselves with God into avoiding losing friends because of Jesus.
The strange thing is you’ll find people around you who are begging you to “just be real.” This past week I had someone articulate that to me, explaining, “Don’t give me safe conversation. Tell me whatever you think without holding anything back. Let me hear everything you wrestle with.”
This is someone I just met who is new to church and God.
I explained, “I get asked that all the time, as if I’m hiding my deepest junk from the world. I’m actually a pretty open guy, but have learned to be appropriately honest.”
“What does that mean?” came the counter-reply.
“Imagine I lost my job and needed to explain it to my family. In complete honesty, I would tell my 4-year old ‘Daddy needs to look for a new job. Pray for me, okay?’ I might then tell my 11-year old, ‘I’m not working there anymore, and we might need to cut back on some of our extra spending for a while.’ I might further confide in my 14-year old, ‘I’m not at my old job anymore, and here’s what happened.’ Of course, I’d let my wife into my more intimate inner world, from all the fears and dreams I had about it. In each situation, I would be completely honest while being appropriate to the audience.”
This is a tension any Christian leader has to learn to walk. It’s why over the years I’ve gone from trying to debate every issue I disagree with in a public forum to hanging out with people in person and exploring such tensions over a warm beverage.
“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:6)
Eugene Peterson paraphrased it,
“Don’t be flip with the sacred. Banter and silliness give no honor to God. Don’t reduce holy mysteries to slogans. In trying to be relevant, you’re only being cute and inviting sacrilege.”
There are some things that are worth taking a public stand about.
Evangelism and discipleship are on some level you saying, “It’s okay if you don’t like me after this. Your life / eternity matter more to me.”
There are other things that need to be handled more personally.
Being a local or global missionary requires reading the culture/person you’re trying to reach to find the best way in.
There are zero things that shouldn’t ever be talked about.
Jesus said to love God with every bit of who you are, and the Epistles add to “test everything” and let “whatever you do, whether in word or deed” be done for the Lord.
Our challenge is not to know the difference, but to let the Spirit of God tell us which is which.
How do you navigate all of this, let alone the tension of losing friends for Jesus?