Written by Natalie Wun, Singapore
Back when we were in secondary school, I had invited Ava, my best friend of nine years, to church. Ava accepted Christ into her life and began attending weekly cell group meetings and services on a regular basis. I was elated that my dear friend had come to experience God’s love, and thrilled at the prospect of spurring each other towards Christlikeness. However, things ended as quickly as it had begun.
After a few months, Ava told me that she no longer wished to attend church gatherings. My heart sank when she admitted that she had only done so because she did not want to disappoint me and my cell group with her constant refusals.
Weeks after Ava’s decision to leave the faith, tensions began to escalate between us. I could tell she wasn’t pleased with me attending cell group as it meant lesser time spent with her. It also became increasingly difficult to be around her, as she would make insinuating comments about the foolishness of the Christian faith and the ridiculous amount of time I gave to the church.
There were many nights I wrestled with God over the plight of my friendship. I couldn’t help but question why God would harden Ava’s heart. All I had wanted was to bring my closest friend to Christ, and yet the complete opposite had happened.
Our interactions did not get easier, which gradually pressured me into making a choice between God and Ava. Each time she mocked Christianity, I tried to slip in reasons explaining my faith, only to be met with adamant refusals and skepticism. These encounters eventually led me to the realisation that choosing God would mean ending my friendship with her.
As much as it hurt to lose this friendship, I’ve come to learn three lessons about my faith.
1. We should expect opposition when we share Christ
First, God taught me that the basis of my faith should not be tied to the opinions of my friends or family, but solely on the fact that Christ died for me and. This means that as we accept Christ into our lives, we could potentially be at odds with our loved ones.
If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. (John 15:18-19)
Not all of us will have tensions in our relationships, but John 15 does explain that it is a natural outcome of sharing the truth. If there is any comfort for us, Jesus was hated by the world, yet He was never derailed from His mission to preach the good news and heal the sick. We can find comfort and confidence knowing that our Saviour went through greater trials than us.
2. Continue to speak the truth in love
Second, when our faith is rooted in the cross and in the understanding that everything we have is all from Him, we can trust in His plans even without fully understanding the how or why. For me, it meant reconciling with the reality of this broken friendship and surrendering my hurts to God. If God has decided to take this friendship from me, so be it. Arriving at this conclusion was painful, but I know for certain that God is moulding my faith. He is the one thing in this world that I would not trade anything else for.
In the process of healing, God has been very kind to me. Though I lost Ava, God sent more people with loving intentions: my cell group. They were there to share in my hurts and to encourage me to continue pursuing Christ.
Months after the fallout, someone asked me if I ever regretted inviting her to church. It seems that, had Christianity not been in the picture, we would likely still be friends. Though this might sound like a convenient scenario to consider, I don’t regret the decision I made; if I were to be placed in that situation again, I would still do the same thing. Because love is not keeping quiet about the truth.
To me, loving Ava meant sharing the truth of the gospel with her. Although she did not find the framework of Christianity to be one that could work for her, I am still grateful that she gave God a chance and heard the message of His love. Though I didn’t get to witness her dedicating her life to Christ, I am trusting in His plans that she could meet someone else later in her life who may help bring her back to Him again.
3. Share about Christ with gentleness and respect
Third, although love is not keeping quiet about the truth, truth spoken must still be done in love.
We are called to love those who do not know Christ and one of the best things we can share with them is the truth of the gospel. And 1 Peter 3:15-16 establishes the manner for us to share the truth—with “gentleness and respect”:
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
Looking back, I realised that nearing the end of our friendship, I was guilty of being unkind and intolerant towards Ava. Since then, God has convicted me of my pride and short-sightedness, prompting me to reconsider the way I uphold truth.
To those who are struggling with friends who might be hostile towards the faith, I hope to encourage you to continue loving your friends just as Christ would and keep praying for their hearts to be softened.
In the course of living out our faith, we may potentially face persecution or opposition from our loved ones, yet we can draw comfort from the knowledge that God knows our pain and He will help us through it. Our role is to be faithful with our portion as we wait for God to grow the seed that we have planted (1 Corinthians 3:6).