I love it when people begin to discover that they are loved by God. I especially love it when they move from understanding how much they matter to God, to seeing that other people really matter too. They matter as treasures God created. They matter to that person who's just discovered God's grace. It's beautiful.
It's disappointing though, when followers of Christ begin to see their friends as walking targets, a bull's eye target to faith-wrestle to their knees, so they can be "saved." People can tell when the friendship is motivated by pure love that is curious, genuinely interested and invested. And, people can tell when the "friendship" is about completing a soul-saving objective. When that happens the Christ-follower listens less, asks fewer questions and presents more "persuasive" monologues around church and faith. That's disappointing to me. And frustrating for people who really matter to God, but think they only matter if they see it the way of the Christian friend.
Several years ago a letter in our local newspaper illustrated this very predicament. A writer, identified only as "Hell of a Friend", includes this in the letter:
"I've been friends with "Jenny" for 10 years. We met in our early 20s when we were both newly married...The problem is Jenny has found Jesus. She goes to church twice a week, listens to religious music and studies the Bible constantly. She hasn't joined a cult or anything; it's a mainstream religion. I'm glad she's happy in her faith...When "The Passion of the Christ" came out, she invited me because her church had told members to "bring an unsaved friend." I resented her thinking of me in those terms.
"But I'm more annoyed by her casual approaches to convert me. (When she invites me places, she says something like "I've got an extra ticket and thought you might want to come" or "We're studying Revelation and I thought you might be interested.")...
"I'm not interested, but I don't know how to tell her without hurting her feelings or making her think even more that I'm headed for hell. Plus, I wonder if she thinks of me as a friend anymore or just a soul that needs saving."
I wonder how easy it is for us - any of us who are following Jesus - to make this kind of mistake in our relationships?
What happens when we genuinely invest in our neighbors, work associates and friends out of a sincere, personal curiosity about that person's life. Period. What if we built friendships with the intention of connecting to the other person's journey first. What might my neighbor or yours see in us? How is it that LOVE may impact their life, their story?
There's no bull's eye on that persons chest.
Stop the target practice.