Broaden Your Circle of Friends….but beware

Broadening my circle of friends and acquaintances has been the best.

As the leader of Center of Hope for many years, I established relationships with inmates, people on the streets, and people of other cultures. They offered me so many other perspectives! And plenty became friends as we genuinely cared about each other.

One of my best found friendships in the last few years is with someone quite opposed to belief in God. Some might call him an atheist but he doesn’t like labels. He has suggested insightful books to read, from which I have learned much. Our visits, especially when we meet in person rather than debate on Facebook, are always enlightening. He wants to help me sharpen my skills as a pastor and evangelist. Most of all, we genuinely care about how each other is doing. He knows a desire of mine is that he finds personal peace in God; I imagine a part of him appreciates that I care about that.

My job with New Roots Ministry is rich, especially in meeting people of other countries, cultures and religions. Abdul is an example. He is orthodox Muslim. I suppose I am “orthodox” Christian. He is always accommodating in teaching me and others about his country—Somalia, and his religion. Maybe most special is our genuine care about each other, in a weird way shown through our mutual hope that the other becomes enlightened to what is understood as Truth. We acknowledge we wouldn’t be much as friends if we didn’t care about that. (We talk some about that, then move on to other, more agreeable, subjects.)

But beware. Be grounded, anchored well-enough, like the builder described by Jesus in Luke 6:48, before venturing off, away from your flock. I write that with experience. A few years ago, as I hastily wrote A Search for Common Ground: Let’s Talk, in order to learn other perspectives, I quickly digested information that was quite anti-belief, and visited with people who were quite anti-belief, without balancing with a consistently solid intake of food from my God and my faith-family members. Spiritually, I got indigestion. I know, some of you friends, on both sides, will challenge me here: “Fred, open-minded is all good. Scrap the anchors.” Others: “Fred, you should’ve known better.”

Thank-you, My Friends, for caring! Love you for that.

4 thoughts on “Broaden Your Circle of Friends….but beware”

  1. I recently read a book by psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson called “12 Rules For Life: An Antidote For Chaos”. Part philosophy, part history, and part self-help book, one of the chapters/rules is ASSUME THAT THE PERSON YOU ARE LISTENING TO MIGHT KNOW SOMETHING YOU DON’T. I think this is sound advice, and a point that I try to make in my interactions with people.

    When stipulations are put up for conversations with those we might disagree with, I feel that it can interfere with our capacity to learn new things from others. Telling people to “BEWARE” can put people on the defense and make them less open and willing to listen. Just some food for thought. Take care, Fred.

    1. Robert, I suppose I could have used a different word. As I thought of using “beware” when I wrote the post, “be aware” kept coming to mind which seemed to be tamer than perhaps a synonym like “danger.” However, I’m assuming much of my word-selection in that line of thinking would raise red flags to you, including the following phrases I used—“Be grounded, anchored, well-enough…” I’m assuming you encourage complete open-mindedness, and I’m at a different place, therefore calling for some caution. Am I right in my assumption?

  2. Engaging others with the thought “they may know something we don’t” is pretty much common courtesy. If we want to be listened to in lieu of being heard we must extend the same courtesy to those of differing views.

    That being said, it is futile to expect people to assimilate their beliefs with those of diabolically opposed ideas. And while it is unreasonable to “expect” people to take our beliefs and make them their own, it is fair to say we will always hold out hope for the transformation of their minds (be it believer or free thinker).

    I wonder if it is our desire to debate that makes us try to change people over to our way of thinking? Maybe inflicting our subconscious sense of authority or dominance? Or stranger yet, a compassion and love for those around us that compels us to share our belief in a future that is promised by Someone greater than us? Or a concern to set straight those who we perceive as being misled by mainstream theology?

    I guess the reality is that no matter which side of the spiritual canyon you sit on we need to approach one another with respect and appreciation for our strength of conviction.

    I feel the repercussions for believers to step away from their faith in order to make concessions to a non-believing stance is far greater than that of the free thinking community. If a Christian trades their faith for scientific logic they run the risk of sacrificing the hope of eternal life with their maker. Alternatively, if a free thinker considers the ideology of spirtuality in place of scientific postulation they compromise their integrity. It appears that if the believer is correct they have more to lose than the free thinker, who relinquishes only pride.

    The book of Titus best describes the action to take when encountering strong differing opinions; Titus 3:9-11. And with all of that, I pray we can all be led to “the way, the truth, and the life”.

    1. Jim, good thoughts. Paul’s reminder to Titus is indeed good for us, too. I certainly want to avoid divisive discussion. Offering respectful dialogue is always a strong desire for me, though I admit I do cross the line a little sometimes, usually not out of anger or frustration as much as not being thoughtful enough in laying out my thoughts before hitting “send.”
      As you can read in my reply to my friend Robert in the comments of this blog, I would agree with you that some caution is warranted. Clearly others, probably including non-believers as you seem to state, have less to lose in “making concessions.”

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