Understanding & Connecting to our World (1)

Understanding & Connecting to our World (1)

Building Genuine Friendships

I was walking down the street this week and I was stopped by a young Asian man looking for directions to the bus stop. Instead of pointing him in the general direction as I would normally do, I decided to walk him to the stop and chat to him on the way. It turns out that his name is Mohsin, he is 21 years old, from Pakistan, and he has just moved on to the estate as he studies for 2 years in a local college. I asked him if he had any friends because most young men of Asian origin are thought of as the “Taliban” around here and are open targets for abuse. Anyway, as we got to the stop I asked him if he would like to swap numbers and maybe we could meet up some time. He agreed and then said to me: “Will you be my friend?” Everybody I have told this story to has snickered at this point. I think because we have become so cynical that a simple request like this leaves us uneasy.

Then it got me thinking. How many of us actually have a lost “friend”? Somebody we genuinely like to spend time with and listen to? Somebody we don’t regard as a “project”. Now many people at this point will interject with: “‘ work with unbelievers everyday’. Good for you, so do I. The question is: how many of these people do you know beyond a superficial level? It is little wonder we don’t know how to relate to unbelievers when most of us live our lives in a little evangelical bubble, popping out every now and then for a little foray in the ‘world’. The Lord Jesus made friends with a wide variety of people and, interestingly, many of them were outside the community of faith.

In my experience, many believers have few ‘worldly friends’ but many ‘worldly habits’. Others confuse ‘being salt and light’ with going drinking, clubbing and partying to show people ‘how normal we are’. But I think there is nothing wrong with being different to other people. We should celebrate our ‘differences’ and not shy away from them. Why are we so keen to hide our Christian distinctiveness? What will set us apart if we do that? When I was homeless on the streets, drugged out of my box every night and out clubbing, I didn’t need another friend like that. I was looking for something and somebody different. And I thank God that (1) I found Christians who were unashamed to be thought of as  ‘a little bit geeky’ (2) I found people who were willing to be my friend despite all the barriers I put up and (3) I found people who were genuinely open about their faith and lived in such a way that it drew me to the message of Christ and, ultimately, to salvation.

People are looking for something different. People are looking for friendship and connection. They are not just ‘projects’ or a point on a ‘prayer letter’. They are flesh and blood and we should be willing to go the extra mile to show them that we love God and we love them.