Your Interfaith Friends Aren’t Projects
When it comes to talking to people of other religions, Christians often take one of two approaches, both of which hinder true friendship: Either we avoid any mention of religion, afraid to cause awkwardness or tension; or we view people with different beliefs as projects, potential believers we have to push toward Christ by pointing out the flaws in their thinking.
Over the past few years, I've had the opportunity to live and work alongside men and women from different religious backgrounds from my own, and I’ve learned a lot about how to engage in conversations about faith—and how to form real, lasting friendships—with those who disagree with your beliefs.
Put a Pause on Assumptions.
Stereotypes always minimize meaningful conversations. When I began working with students from the Middle East as an English tutor, I was nervous about revealing my faith because I assumed that they might be bitter toward Christians like many of the Muslims I saw on TV. It wasn't until one of them invited me to lunch and we both started talking about culture and religion that I realized how completely off-base I'd been.
Not only can people tell when we're not truly invested in them as friends, but by treating them as life-goals, we make God's love for them look cheap and shallow.
The truth, which so many of us don't realize, is that people have very personalized ways to express their faith. This is something we see in other Christians. Now, rather than assuming that I know, I just try asking others what they think or believe or, even better, wait for them to tell me. Understanding through listening is a common theme in the Scriptures (Proverbs 11:12) for good reason.
Besides, we can't expect people to hear what we have to say when we haven't even tried to listen to them.
They're People, Not Projects.
I've heard many sermons calling Christians to make the most of every opportunity to share Jesus with everyone we share life with. While I don't believe we're called to anything less than this, I think the heart of the message often gets lost in transmission.