Episode 17 – Patrons Choice – Friendship with people of different faiths

This is a Patrons choice episode.

To what degree do the people we surround ourselves with influence our way of life? Such an important question to ask. (I become the average of the 5 people I spend the most time with) VS the opposite end – having nothing to do with anyone who differs in their beliefs to me — there’s a balance.

Even within Christianity we have a spectrum of believers who hold certain traditions as more important to them than others. 

Three things to consider

What are our values?  Where do they overlap and where do they not? What impact does this overlapping or struggling to overlap hold? 

When we’re accompanying people through life who live out their lives very differently to us, we need to ask ourselves:

Where do our values align and where do they not?

To do that, we need to look at our own set of values first (go back to Season 1 and have a listen to a previous episode on Values).

If we hold the value of respect for self higher than the value of wealth then we will naturally have certain boundaries of what we’d be willing to do to make ends meet. Someone who values wealth over respect for self, won’t have a problem pushing the boundaries of health and well being for self in the name of career or financial progression. 

Similarly when it comes to people of different faiths we have to ask what aspects of faith is of highest value. If we have a person who values tradition as more important than experiences, then that person will likely have rituals and routines that they will stick to regardless of whether it brings them any kind of positive feeling. Whereas the person who values experiences, won’t be phased by rituals as much as doing whatever is necessary to grow in experiences, or harness a certain emotive experience. This might be where we can see clashes in the way people live out their spirituality – some are anchored by holding on to a set routine, others are held captive by what?

We also have to ask ourselves if in the name of love, we value understanding that person or simply want to change them quick smart?

Having respect for those of different religions

Sometimes, we can be quick to tell people they’re doing ‘religion’ wrong, before we’ve taken the time to understand why they’re doing what they’re doing, and whether they’re interested and ready to learn more to grow. Sometimes as Christians we forget, we’re not the ones doing the growing of faith and deepening relationship with God, that’s the Holy Spirit’s job — we’re just cooperating.

Respect isn’t a one way street. We can’t have the expectation of being friends with someone without respecting what is essential to them. That doesn’t mean agreeing with them, but it does mean treating them with human dignity, accepting them as they are, with the hope that God will draw them into a relationship with Him — on His time-frame. Not ours.    

Belief systems

What are the belief systems we hold? How strongly are they held? Or how do we move past it? Can we?

It’s at this point where we have to also acknowledge that the way we see someone live out their lives come from core values, but also in the way they are interconnected and made sense through their belief system.

For example, someone who operates from a place believing that the body is good and beautiful will be more inclined to care for the body, nurture and treasure it. Whereas someone who believes the body is just a temporary shell will have less regard for their body and for that of others. For the first, the life and mission of people like Mother Theresa takes on a whole new meaning of caring for the poorest of the poor and will not to place a great emphasis on the physical needs of the poor. For the second, they may wish to assist alleviate the suffering as well but more likely to focus less on the physical sense, and perhaps more in a spiritual detachment sense.

For Christians, we’re believers that Jesus is the son of God, who came to set our relationship straight with God. Who sacrificed himself, as one of us, and made us adopted brothers and sisters of God. We’re believers of a creator, and that we are his created beings. This means that we immediately operate from a place where our lives are not accidental, and have meaning and purpose

We acknowledge we have free will, but there is an all loving God, to whom we surrender control. He’s the mover and shaker of all that is good. So when things are tough, we can immediately turn to our Creator for support. Whereas for a non-believer in a creator, will only have themselves or the ability of another human being to believe in. This simple difference already changes the way we view our lives. 

Do we believe that there are good things in non-christian religions?

Yes. We believe that other religions – which are authentic expressions of man’s search for God have what we would call ‘semina verbi’ seeds of the word. There are true good and beautiful aspects in world religions which reflect the truth of Jesus Christ, however dimly.

However, we need to also avoid the trap of saying something like: All religions are the same, or we all worship the same God, because that is false. God has revealed himself through his Son. The idea that non-Christian worship and doctrine is just as good as the Christian faith and worship is not consonant with the Gospel, in which Jesus commanded us to make disciples of all nations. 

That being said we also have to respect the religious freedom of our brothers and sisters. One of the important lessons I learned in the seminary was ‘The human person has inalienable rights, however error has none.’ Error has no rights. So if I have a friend who is non-Christian, I can raise and address errors, but I must do so in a way that is respectful and charitable of him as a person and for our friendship too. 

Bearing this in mind, if we have respect and charity for our non-Christian friend does mean some kind of compromise? Is that okay? Does it even make a friendship with a non Christian possible?  

Is there room for compromise?

In one sense. Yes, there is always room, but in another, never. 

We never compromise on our faith. Our Christian faith is true. Jesus is the Truth, the way and life. We do not compromise on that ever. 

HOWEVER, we CAN compromise on some of the ways we choose to interact with others in bearing witness to Jesus. We wouldn’t compromise on keeping the sabbath holy, but we can include or attend our non-christian friend’s event on the sabbath. 

We don’t deny the gospels, but we can compromise on not quoting scripture all the time or only talking about faith based topics, if that makes it hard for our friends to connect.

Just so long as we remember, in compromise, we do not compromise our values and our beliefs, but we can compromise on how we choose to act upon them so long as that compromise is also not only one way but goes both ways. If your friend wants you to stop talking about how much you love Jesus all the time, then ask if we can meet in the middle. I’ll decrease how much I talk about my faith with you, but can you be open to taking an interest in my faith? And can you share what your beliefs look like? When we bear witness we do it through a relationship, which begins with connecting. 

The way Jesus meets people

When Jesus meets people, He meets them where they’re at, goes to them at their level, to really make them feel heard and understood. 

What kind of relationship am I in? How often do I spend time with them? What’s the investment? Anyone who says they don’t have to invest in their friends, is kidding themselves and either hasn’t taken a closer look at their friendship, or could even be taking more than they’re giving. Take stock of our relationships.

Obviously if you’re in a romantic relationship with someone who isn’t a believer, that will be more challenging than being friends with a person who is a non believer. The stakes are higher because the level of intimacy and connection is higher. You’re wanting to share more of your heart with a romantic partner than a friend, and when your partner finds it hard to meet you where your at over and over, we have to recognise that it needs to work both ways. We don’t need to live out a life that is opposite to our belief system if that is our significant other’s belief system, but we do have to enter into their world of understanding, and actually desire to know their desires and beliefs. 

TBG (Truth, Beauty, Goodness)

Padre: Our Saviour and his love for us by Garrigou Largange 
Link: https://www.amazon.com.au/Our-Saviour-His-Love-Us/dp/0895556359

Stina: Health Forum – Work

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