Faith · Jesus

I’m a Christian. You’re an Atheist. Can we still be friends?

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I’m a Christian. You’re an Atheist. Can we still be friends?

It’s a question we shouldn’t have to ask — but we do.

I’ve had many friends over the years who held a range of beliefs different than my Christian faith – Islam, Hinduism, Animism, Judaism, Paganism, and no religious affiliation being a few among them. Some were Christians once and no longer follow that faith. Others are in the opposite situation. They didn’t subscribe to a faith early in life but had a change of perspective and now follow Jesus. I also have family members, co-workers, and leaders for whom I have great respect. The fact that they may have a vastly different view of life than I do has never affected our ability to be friends.

But why?

Faith is a hot-button issue, I know. And I assure you – I’m sweating bullets over this post. I’ve never written anything like it. But maybe that’s why it’s on my heart. I’m far more comfortable in my “Jesus-following-box” than ever stepping out to confront such a question in a public forum. And after seeing a friend had commented on social media posts that support a vastly different world view than mine, I had to examine my heart.

She knows how seriously I take my faith in Jesus Christ. And now, I know how seriously she takes her belief in Atheism.

Will she still want to be friends with me?

I hope so. And here’s why…

It’s a heart issue. Plain and simple? We both have one.

Despite the way we vote in an election, despite to whom we pray and how we choose to live, we both have hearts. We care about each other. I’ve hugged her neck and she’s hugged mine. We’ve cried together. We’ve rejoiced over mutual blessings. We’ve had authentic conversations about my faith in Jesus. In fact, I recall the times she’s listened to what I had to say and was quite respectful. She even read my debut novel knowing that it had the underpinnings of Jesus Christ woven into the story. I knew she held different beliefs than I did, but she read anyway. And that heart – that willingness to be curious and ask each other about faith without fear of reproach – that’s been the springboard to loving each other as-is.

Until we start seeing each other as more than a label, we’ll never be able to love as Christ does. 

Be honest — when you look at my photo, what do you see? A WASP with blonde hair, right?

A middle-class soccer mom. A woman who, as a Christian, just couldn’t have or love friends who are gay. Or Atheist. Or who have tattoos and blue hair. Or who are so bottomed-out with sin that they’re not sure they’ll ever make it out of the mess they’re in. She couldn’t understand what it’s like to have a different perspective. She couldn’t picture an upbringing outside of church. One in which her decisions and the environment in which she was reared had a big part in the women she’d become one day. One in which she was judged, rejected, abused or mistreated for some part of who she is.

Here’s a news flash… She’s more than what you see. She’s sinned. Made mistakes. Doubted her faith more than once. Questioned and wondered “Why, God?” when she saw others in the midst of their worst struggles. She’s blown-it more than once. That’s the Christian in the photo. She’s imperfect.

But here’s what you don’t see.

She has a favorite color. People who care about her gave her a nickname. Do you know what it is? She likes coffee. Dreams of Paris. She loves Jeremy. She likes to laugh and though she claims to have a terrible voice, she sings hymns to her three little boys.  She’s a UofM fan by birth and a Fighting Irish fan by marriage. She misses her Dad something fierce. She has memories of times she’s stood by a grave and felt pain so deeply, that it physically hurt.  She’s made mistakes she regrets. Hugs are important to her. Tears of someone who’s hurting? Even more important. She likes to give gifts, ride roller coasters, visit Disney World, and watch every British drama she can get her hands on. She’s of German, French, Welsh, English, and Native American Indian (Cherokee) descent. She’s protective of her mom. Peonies are the most beautiful flowers she’s ever seen. She thinks Mom is the best (but toughest) job she’s ever had.

How in the world would anyone know these things if they stopped at Christian? Or Republican? Or straight, white, college-educated, or woman? How could anyone learn about her heart if all they see is a fight when they look at her?

“But what of truth?” I’ve heard that before. We’ve got to stand on it and call sin what it is. I get it. Maybe more than you know. But I’m not interested in religion like I’m interested in Jesus. I’ll dig in to Scripture because it’s my life-blood. It’s truth and it’s who I am. It’s the air I breathe because I desperately want Jesus to be alive in me.

But we must open our eyes. No one is going to see past the WASP blonde author to the Jesus inside unless we remove the lens of labels.

When I see my friend – my sweet, wonderful, beautiful friend who just happens to be an Atheist – I’m going to hug her. We’ll sit and talk. We’ll share. We’ll peel off the labels and dig deep in the heart. She’s going to get my love, my respect, and my prayers that Jesus will one day move in her life. Because that’s what’s important.

She’s my friend, and friends are the family we get to choose in this life.

I choose the family of Jesus Christ over the labels of anything less.

In His beautiful love,

Kristy_sig

 

36 thoughts on “I’m a Christian. You’re an Atheist. Can we still be friends?

  1. Love this, Kristy. Bless you for sharing your heart with us and with others who believe differently than you. I agree wholeheartedly. Jesus did the same. He wasn’t unequally yoked. But he loved everyone regardless of their belief or background in hope they would see the hope he offered. We can do no less.

  2. I love this: “How could anyone learn about her heart if all they see is a fight when they look at her?” Oh my…you have touched my heart with this post, Kristy. I have to show my heart to an atheist day in and day out…and I am not a very good representation of Christ much of the time. But since he is my husband, it is easy to default on “well, he’s stuck with me, and he was a Christian first, so he better understand me.” That is a huge lie, because his atheism has given him a different set of spectacles, and something stops him from really seeing me without a stereotype of what he has convinced his heart that Christianity produces.
    I need to be myself without compromise, and be like Jesus more than I feel like it at times.
    Beautiful post!
    Angie

    1. Angie ~ I am overcome with the beauty in your comment. It’s so full of love. Of understanding. And HUMILITY. Can’t we all use more of that? Can’t we come humbly to the level-ground of the cross and see each other as loved people first? Your heart, my friend, is SO beautiful. May we all love like you do. I am praying for you, your family, and am so glad to call you Friend.

  3. I agree. We can’t have a prerequisite list of “qualifications” for friendship – or showing love, for that matter. How in the world will we make it through this life if we’re not loving one another. There’s something gentle and graceful in hands that love.

  4. Beautifully said, Kristy! Thank you! I have a number of friends who profess to be atheists, and agnostics, and Wiccans, and all sorts of other things. Many of them have been my friends since LONG before I came to Christ, and I love them more now than I did then. If my walk with Jesus opens their hearts to His love, that would be wonderful. If not, I can still love them, respect them, and enjoy the work of God’s hands that they are, for as long as we’re here together in this life.

  5. Who can we hope to bring to Christ if we choose to not interact with them at a personal level and show them who we are through Christ. If we turned our back on non-believers we have failed in His great commission. Christianity is not a private club we are born into; all are welcome so long as they feel as if we care enough and love enough to show them. None of us, at least a very few of us, would know the love of Christ if Christains did not first accept us as we are (or were) and show us a better way. I thank God for those who looked past my self imposed labels and took the time to lead (not push, nag or drag) me into His light.

    1. Steve ~ I loved your comment: “Christianity is not a private club”. You know, if it was… I wouldn’t be admitted either. I’m not perfect. I’ve got flaws and failures to offer. The ONLY thing that would admit anyone to a club would be (and is) love. That’s what the cross is all about. SO glad you stopped by, friend. Bless you!

  6. Thank you Kristy for your heartfelt sharing! Scripture is always first and foremost our guide! Having said that, let’s remember who Jesus spent His ministry touching.. those who were without Him. My husband and I have spent 35 years in full-time ministry loving those whose lifestyle and faith or lack thereof have been very different than ours. Relational ministry is difficult and requires a unique commitment to “live” my faith before those who “hate” my faith or perspective of their lifestyle. Regardless, they have a great need to know the Truth! There are many who condemn and few it seems who love “in word and deed”. Romans 10:14 tells us “New Living Translation
    But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” My life will speak of Him who I love and prayerfully show Him who has sent me.

    1. Thank you for the time you’ve spent ministering to others, Debrah. It’s a beautiful way to use your life. And I was talking with my Mom about this very thing — how can we possibly love if we stay in a box? That’s not who Jesus was. And, even more, He knew people (and cared to get to know them) on a personal level. You can’t skim the surface and expect to have a meaningful relationship with anyone. Respect and authenticity are not earned with less. Bless you, sister!

  7. I am a disciple of Jesus (though for only 2.5 years). I have a few folks with whom I am close who are not believers, so I try to a) love God, love people, as Jesus asked of us and b) pray for those who aren’t Christians that God will change their heart, which I know only only He can. Blessings.

  8. A good article, nicely written.

    As an atheist, I may face this more than you do since more of my friends are religious than not. (Christian, Jewish, Muslim and a couple Buddhists.) They’re my friends because they’re good people and I love them. As you say, I love them under the labels.

    I have lost friends who made it clear that sharing their religion was a prerequisite to friendship. It always saddens me, but I understand it. The Bible does have many admonitions to avoid people who will not convert. (1 Cor 5:11, 1 Cor 15:33, James 4:4, 2 John 1:10 for example.) It seems that if religion is going to be an issue, it’s always with a Christian.

    The common denominator among my friends who stay is they don’t see me (or my wife) as projects, only having value if we can be brought to Christ. They don’t keep up a constant pressure to come to church and we return the favor by not giving our opinions on particular religious topics. And, perhaps ironically, I am most likely to respect the faith of the people I know who are content to let themselves serve as living examples for their faith without having to constantly talk about it. I know whence comes their kindness and generosity and I think it’s wonderful. But to talk about love and not exhibit any is the fastest way to lose my respect.

    1. Hi Stan ~ Thanks for stopping by. Your comment was learned, respectful, and written with eloquence. The kind of honest connectivity I think we’re all looking for. Best blessings to you and yours!

  9. I recall Jesus loving people where they were at. Everyone is on a journey we don’t always get to see the end of – who knows how you loving your atheist friend will turn out. You plant and water. God makes things grow. If all we do is judge and point they don’t see Him, they see the label. I don’t want to be that to the world. I just want to be Jesus. Kristy, you are one of the most genuine people I know. Don’t stop. *hugs*

  10. Love this, Kristy. SO much! Christ’s love should give us strength to build bridges of communication and love instead of labels and judgment. I’ve had several friends of varying faiths (including Atheism) and in all honesty, because I loved them and they loved me…we could speak to each other about our beliefs in a nonthreatening way. Do I hope my relationship with them will lead them to the truth? Sure – what friend wouldn’t want the very best for the other 😉 But truly caring for someone means we reach beyond our intentions and just love them.
    What a great example we have in Christ – and what wonderful way he’s used you through this post!

    Blessings,

    Pepper

    1. Amen! I’d never say not to follow truth, to ignore The Word. It’s clear and that’s our foundation. But if we’re going to look at one label, let’s look at the name of Jesus covering the heart of every single person He’s died for. Your comment was beautiful and so uplifting.

      1. Exactly! Jesus knows for whom He died. He is the only one with power to change the heart – but with the beautiful way you described above – we can be co-venturers in His plan by simply being good and faithful friends. Seeing the person and loving the person.

        Fantastic reminder. And thank you for sharing this today! (love your website, btw. The new pic is FAB!!!!)

  11. Having many and various friends is a good thing. How can others see Christ in us, is we are not willing to build a relationship with them? (What I don’t get is how you could ever go for the Fighting Irish?! 😉 I’m a State fan by birth and was only allowed to root for U of M two days a year–when they played the Buckeyes and the Fighting Irish!) I really appreciate this post, thank you for your honesty.

    1. Of all the things in this post, I’ve found the college football loyalties to be the most divisive! Ha ha! So glad you stopped by, Miss M State fan! 🙂 I love it. I like to think we could be friends despite the colors we wear. Jesus reigns!

  12. Scripture must always be our.
    (2 Corinthians 6:14 KJV) Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

    1. A yoke speaks of a team of oxen working together to accomplish a common goal. This post is about friendship, not partnership.

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