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.