She sat across from me, a warm cup of tea cradled in her hands. Between sips she told me about a guy at work. They were texting a lot more lately. Finding ways to work together during the day. Her husband didn’t know about him or about the time they were spending together.
She sensed it wasn’t the right thing to do, that she should pull back. But the intrigue was magnetic.
This wasn’t our first conversation over tea, but we hadn’t had many. We were building our friendship, sharing our stories, learning a little more about one another with each get-together. We had a few things in common: a love of the outdoors, an appreciation for ethnic foods, a joy in reading.
But there was one major thing we didn’t have in common: our spiritual beliefs. While I am a Christ-follower, my friend is a sort of spiritual eclectic. A little of this from the East, a little of that from the West, and definitely a major dose of karma.
A THEOLOGY OF FRIENDSHIPS
The Bible says my friendship with her is no mistake. You and I don’t accidentally fall into relationships, jobs, or neighborhoods. God ordains the “allotted periods and the boundaries of [our] dwelling place” (Acts 17:26). In other words, God determines exactly where and when you and I live, as well as where and when everyone we know lives.
Our friendships are not cosmic accidents. They are ordained by God.
But why does God ordain our relationships? What’s the point? What are we supposed to do with our friends and family, our coworkers and neighbors?
Paul gives us an answer in his first letter to the Thessalonians: “Being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:8).
What instructive words for friendship! We are meant to share the gospel and share our lives.
But I must confess, in my own friendships with non-Christians, I flip Paul’s priorities upside down. I’m keen to share my life, but often hesitate to share the gospel. I’m quick to share meals, share experiences, and share stories, but timid when it comes to spiritually opening up.
Paul says that to be affectionate, to actually love our friends, we’ve got to share not only our lives, but the gospel as well.
SHARE YOUR LIFE, SHARE THE GOSPEL
I’m not suggesting that we inject Bible verses into each and every conversation. I’m not suggesting you pick up a bag of Testamints at your local Christian bookstore and pass them out to everyone you know. I’m not saying you need to sit down with every nonbeliever in your life and share the plan of salvation with them and wait for a response then and there.
Rather, I’m looking at myself in the mirror and asking, Why am I willing to share my life, but often hesitant to share my God?
When commenting on conversations with her unsaved neighbors, Rosaria Butterfield says, “My words are not pep talks. I hope, indeed, that my words, are not even my own, but Christ’s working through me.”
Christ in us has something to say. As vessels of the risen God, you and I have living hope to offer our friends in every conversation. This living hope, though, can somehow get stuck in our throats. We hesitate and hem and haw, inwardly wondering if we’ll alienate our friends by bringing up the God who made them.
Afraid to offend, we buy ourselves time. We justify our gospel silence by reasoning that we need to get to know our friend better. Or wait for the right moment. Or wait until they ask us outright.
But if you and I don’t hold out the truth of the gospel early and often in our friendships, we will likely cause destruction in at least a few ways. First, we will be inconsistent in our character. We must not give into the temptation to only behave Christianly around our Christian friends. This sort of double-mindedness is dishonest.
Second, as we wait and wait for the perfect moment to share Jesus with our non-believing friends, we lessen the real urgency of the message. Our friends’ eternal well-being hangs in the balance. It’s both irrational and unkind to delay at least broaching the topic and opening the door to future conversations. If we wait six months (or six years) to share the truth, our friends are likely to wonder if we really love them when they find out what we really believe. After all, why would we wait so long to tell them?
Third, we discount Jesus’s promise to be with us, and we discount all the authority given to him as he has sent us to go and share his name (Matt. 28:18-20). As we dismiss his promises and commands, we miss out on one of the greatest joys in this life—ushering our friends and family into a relationship with their Creator and Redeemer.
John Piper says, “Christians care, and will show that they care, about all human suffering, especially eternal suffering. If your life is marked by compassion for all suffering, except eternal suffering, you’re a defective lover.”
To truly love our neighbors—our unsaved friends, family, coworkers, and literal neighbors—is to care about their souls. I am called to share my life, and ultimately the gospel, with my friend, because I love her and care about her suffering. If I don’t offer her the eternal hope I have, then my love for her is defective.
WE CARE ABOUT SUFFERING, SO WE SPEAK
So as I sat across from her that day, what did I say? I don’t remember exactly. I do remember the internal war that waged within me. And I remember sharing some of the gospel with her. I didn’t open my Bible or walk her down the Romans Road. I didn’t pose a personal altar call right there in the cafe. But I did silently pray and ask the Lord to help me share some of his truth with her in my response.
If I could script it now, I would harness the moment when my friend expressed guilt for her relationship. She knew it was wrong. The consistent, truthful, God-honoring, and friend-loving thing to do in that moment was affirm her guilt and hopefully convince her that guilt is a gift. We are quick to sweep guilt under the rug. It’s awkward and uncomfortable in this age of do what feels good. You be you. But guilt is the threshold we must cross to repent, to admit that we fall short of the good and protective standards of our holy God.
To tell her otherwise would be to put a millstone around my friend’s neck. To ignore her sinful path and her God-given, pricked conscience is not grace—it’s deceit. It’s condoning her path to adultery. It’s leading her away from her Creator, not towards him.
My script wouldn’t end with an affirmation of guilt, but proceed with God’s unconditional love, forgiveness and purposes in her life. Not only that, but I would tell her he stands ready to help her in her hour of need. I would share that God brings dead things to life and he would do that for her own soul and for her marriage. I would share from my own storehouse of joy and freedom, purchased by the bloody cross of Christ.
I would share and plead from a heart of genuine love.
THIS IS URGENT
How many friends do I have with whom I have failed to share the gospel? How many times have I put it off? How many opportunities have I justified away?
But if the gospel is true, the gospel is urgent.
Let’s beg God to grow urgency within us. Let’s ask him to help us love our friends more. Let’s refuse to be distracted, fearful or lazy. Let’s be willing to be clumsy as long as we’re consistent. Let’s begin to seek out opportunities in every conversation to share at least some of the restorative truth we carry around within us.
May you and I hold out the word of truth to our friends and family, coworkers and neighbors. To do less is to offer a millstone. To withhold the gospel is to have a defective love.
May we be more like Paul, affectionately desirous of our friends. May they be so dear to us that we share not only our lives, but the gospel of God as well.
 Butterfield, Rosaria, The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in our Post-Christian World (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 54.
Jen Oshman is a wife and mom to four daughters and has served as a missionary for 17 years on three continents. She currently resides in Colorado where she and her husband serve with Pioneers International, and she encourages her church-planting husband at Redemption Parker. Her passion is leading women to a deeper faith and fostering a biblical worldview. She writes at www.jenoshman.com.