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.
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,