The Lord doesn’t call us to be successful, he calls us to be faithful. That age-old saying has comforted me in many life situations where it has been hard to see, or even imagine, the possible fruits of my labors. I specifically remember one office job where I struggled to see the purpose of reconciling bank accounts for a business whose mission, if you could call it that, was nothing that I remotely cared about. What I’ve come back to, time and time again, is that it’s important that whatever you do, you do well. If you’re reconciling bank accounts, do it well. If you’re a parent, student, athlete, employee or small business owner, do it well. By doing it well that action, whatever it may be, gives glory to God.
While that sounds nice, I have to admit, I’ve struggled to take the same principle and apply it to friendships—particularly those that are strained by an incongruence of beliefs. Yet, as Christians, we are called to evangelize, and that happens in the context of relationships where your life serves as a witness. In other words, it seems to be the case that in order to be effective in witnessing to someone, you have to be in their life. That demands a relationship. But what happens when boundaries speak otherwise? Or perhaps you can’t be in a friendship with said person without compromising your own values?
I have many personal examples of this ranging from deciding whether or not I should attend a wedding to friends participating in what I believe to be immoral behavior right in front of me. I honestly believe that the answer to these questions falls on a case by case basis, but simultaneously there are some standard principles to keep in mind.
1) Remember to Whom You Are Called to Be Faithful
Though loyalties to friendships can run long and deep, remember, it is God and God alone who both can demand and deserves our faithfulness. Every relationship, regardless of who it’s with, needs to point to him. If you are being faithful to God, trust that it will move your friendship towards the good, regardless of who it’s with, even if that seems impossible at the moment.
2) Love Demands a Response
When you love someone, that love moves you to action (either spontaneously or by decision). Christ is the ultimate example of this, for it was in his love for us that he chose to enter into his passion. On our part, sometimes that action can be a step towards someone, but it can also take the form of setting a boundary. Sometimes, the most loving thing to do is to not agree or go along with the other person (parents setting limits on their child’s sugar intake comes to mind). What I’m trying to say is that, when it comes to relationships, you don’t get to be neutral. Love is followed by action. Which leads to the next point…
3) Take a Stand
In today’s culture, relativism is glorified and the only acceptable prejudice is against anyone who states that something is right and something else is wrong. However, truth does draw a line in the sand. Truth tells us that there are things bigger than ourselves that we don’t get to decide, try as we might. As Christians, this truth needs to be proclaimed boldly rather than stuffed under the rug. We do need to do a careful and constant self-reflection as well, but it is also a spiritual work of mercy to extend fraternal correction.
If my ultimate goal is to be faithful to God, then there are moments where his truth needs to be spoken, even if it risks the friendship. Rather than complying and adjusting morals to uphold a relationship at all costs, one has to be willing to risk the relationship for the sake of speaking the truth. I don’t claim to have always done this well, but in my own experiences, I have been surprised at how well others have responded to the fraternal correction I’ve offered. And while initially mad, embarrassed, or hurt, likewise I know how grateful I am for the moments where someone had the courage to offer it to me. Taking a stance goes hand-in-hand with setting healthy boundaries, not serving as an enabler in another’s vice, and responding to our call to evangelize.
Christians, Be Bold
All of the above actions and states of mind demand a sense of boldness. We are called to be bold. If not us as Christians, then who? To help inspire that boldness it is important to look at those who have gone before us. My mind turns to the early Christian martyrs. Their eyes were fixed upon Christ. They lived counter-culturally despite the inhumane consequences. While we don’t currently risk our lives as they did, we do risk friendships and all their repercussions which very much affect our day-to-day lives. This is no easy surrender, but know that if it is necessary to live faithfully to God, you will be blessed, regardless of any apparent lack of success.