One of the most important aspects of faith for me is knowing how to balance my faith with the demands of a secular society and non-Christian company. While faith is one of the most important aspects of my life, I am always forced to acknowledge that this is not always the case for my friends, co-workers, peers, and so on. Despite these differences in belief, however, it is necessary for me to find ways of communicating and co-existing with others who do not share my belief, and a key problem then becomes knowing when and to what extent I am being influenced by the non-belief around me.
The Bible warns, in Corinthians 15:33, that “bad company corrupts good character” (Cor. 15:33 [New International Version]), but it can be difficult to identify in modern society just what “bad” company really is. For this reason, I think it is of fundamental importance that my faith and belief be an open subject with my friends, and I find it difficult to become a close friend with anyone who is not open and honest about their own faith and beliefs with me. In this way, I am able to apply my own judgement, based on my knowledge and understanding of what the Bible teaches, to judge whether the friends I trust and love are supporting me in living a life which celebrates God’s will and my own success and happiness.
It can be easy to dismiss the damaging effect that happen when this aspect of friendship occurred, but I have often found that where there has not been an open and honest discussion about faith in my friendships, misunderstandings and conflicts occur. A good example might be when, a few years ago, someone whom I thought was a good friend came to me for support in a personal crisis of faith. Although I did my best to provide advice, support, and love, my belief in the truth and wisdom of the Bible in providing comfort and solutions to my friend’s problem was not shared by her, and this prevented me from helping her as effectively as I would have liked to. In the end, this friend turned away from me and came to see me as just another of her problems, all because there had not previously been an openness about the disparity of our beliefs. More upsetting, however, was the pressure I felt had been placed on me to abandon my faith to conform to what my friend felt she needed from me.
My sincere friendship came into conflict with what I felt to be right and true, all due to the influence of a friend. I came to realise that in rejecting the wisdom of God, my friend was hurting not only herself but also me. In his post on theology and friendship, Ben Myers writes that “Friendship sustains the difficulty of thinking about God” (Myers 2008), suggesting that a personal relationship with God can be challenging, and that one of the key benefits of friendship is in helping a person to meet that challenge joyfully and in good company. I think this is a good basis for understanding friendship: as a facet of a greater and more complex relationship with God, and a means for knowing and strengthening that greater relationship in everyday life. For me, therefore, the gift of friendship is one which needs to be based first and foremost on an honest and complementary attitude towards God, faith, and belief, and on a mutual desire to understand that greater relationship with God. Only with this basic foundation can true friendships be formed.
Reply 1 (E.J.)
I thought it was very interesting in your post the way you emphasised discipline as a means of helping children to fear and obey God, and thereby grow into successful and moral adults. You emphasise the importance of God’s authority, and I think a useful addition to this idea when considering the relationship of theology to parenting is the idea that the parent echoes the authority of God in the child’s life (Wong 1998): by demonstrating the wisdom of God’s laws, the parent effectively teaching obedience by being obedient himself or herself. Titus 2:7 tells us “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity” (Titus 2:7 [English Standard Version]), in this way, the parent acts as the role model for exemplary behaviour, demonstrating in a modest way the love, guidance, and wisdom of God, the ultimate father of us all.
Reply 2 (N.S.)
I thought the emphasis you placed on loyalty in your post was particularly interesting, as you identified the fact that loyalty does not always mean agreeing and supporting, but sometimes means pointing out when a friend is wrong, for his or her own good. In his post on what Biblical friendship traditionally consists of, Elwell writes that the highest imaginable type of friendship involved “the components of association and loyalty along with affection” (Bridges 1996), suggesting that friendship in the Bible is seen as most valuable when an individual puts his friends needs above his own. At the same time, Proverbs 18:24 states that “one who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin” (Prov. 18:24 [New International Version]), and I think this is the truth that your post explores. By putting truth ahead of the personal desire to avoid conflict, a true friend is unshakeably loyal and reliable, leading you closer to the truth wherever possible.
- Bridges, Carl B. 1996. “Friend, Friendship.” Bible Study Tools. Last Modified 1996. Accessed 12 August, 2016. http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/friend-friendship.html.
- Myers, Ben. 2008. “On Theology and Friendship.” Faith and Theology. Last modified 2008. Accessed 12 August, 2016. http://www.faith-theology.com/2010/08/on-theology-and-friendship.html.
- Wong, A. S. L. 1998. “A Biblical Theology of Parenting (IV).” Christian Parenting. Last modified February 1998. Accessed 12 August, 2016. http://www.vtaide.com/blessing/theo4-features.htm.