Wednesday, March 04, 2015

How to Deal with Far-from-God Friends: Part 2

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In the last post, we began to discuss how to handle friends who are drifting from the Lord.  However, it’s such a difficult issue to handle, that I can’t merely give a step-by-step guide to solve it.  Thus, part one of this post focused on the most important piece of these situations: my own attitude.

Before I can hope to see any change in those around me, I need to keep several things I mind:

I’m not all that close to God either.
Are they truly a Christian?
Is it my place to confront this person?
And finally, I can’t change anybody.

I must understand, then, that even though different situations and relationships may require that I respond differently, the principles outlined in the previous post are always applicable.  And while the four points of part one are important, they are by no means the only things to consider.

Knowing this, if the Lord has directed me to talk to a certain friend about his or her lifestyle or attitude, how do I go about doing so?

As I’ve stated before, every situation is different, because every person is different.  Even so, when I approach a friend who is drifting away from the Lord, I must always do so in two ways: in gentleness and in love.

In gentleness

The most important aspect of gentleness springs from this understanding: My friend is more important than his or her behavior.

Simply put, this means that I must always value my friend more than I value “fixing” their lifestyle.  Ultimately, if I am only making matters worse, I need to stop.  It is not worth losing a brother or sister.  Thus, in order to explain my concerns to a friend in gentleness, I have to be able to gauge how open and honest I can be with them without pushing them away. 

Is my friend someone who will respond well to my pointing out every weak area at once, or will it be better if I only suggest a single aspect of concern for now?  Will they understand the severity of their behavior more if I use scripture, or if I explain to them the consequences of their actions?

As these questions imply, how I confront a friend depends largely on who they are and on the traits of their personality.  Obviously, then, I can’t hope to be gentle if I don’t take the time to get to know them on a personal level! 

In love

At first, love seems synonymous with gentleness.  It is entirely unique, though, mainly because love is completely and utterly genuine.  I can have the wrong intentions and still be gentle, but that is not so with love!

Love (or agape love, more specifically) is wanting and seeking the best for others.  Again, the principle of gentleness is evident: I value my friend more than I value changing their lifestyle.  If I become so focused on trying to “fix” someone’s character, then my focus is no longer on Christ, and therefore no longer on love.

The fact that love is genuine is crucial.  Love is real.  If I act like I have no faults at all, why would anyone want to listen to me?  If I am to be genuine, I have to admit that I need to work on some areas too.  In fact, many times friends will be more open to change if I am open and honest about my own failures.  In this way, we become “accountability partners,” spurring one another on to good works (cf. Galatians 6:1-5, Hebrews 10:24).

In the end, if someone doesn’t see my genuine love and care, I will have no effect.  It’s important for them to know that I am not merely confronting them for confrontation’s sake.  I am doing so because I am concerned for them.  I want the best for my friend, not the spiritual, emotional, and even physical turmoil to which their current lifestyle is taking them.  I want to love them as my Savior loves them.

If the Lord is directing me to speak honestly with a friend about issues of sin, I must begin with my own mindset, knowing my place before Almighty God.  I must first take the matter to Him, and then approach my friend in love and gentleness.  When I approach each situation with Christ as my focus, He will work out everything else.

As I have mentioned before, there are so many situations in regard to friends who are drifting away from the Lord that I cannot possibly explain how to approach each one.  I’ve tried, however, to share some general principles and considerations to take into account, which can be applied to any circumstance.

I invite you to share your thoughts, advice, and questions in the comments section!  I would love to continue the discussion with you.