Yesterday, we travelled back to Kent for a barbecue. We had been one couple among eight on a National Childbirth Trust ante-natal course six years ago. Five of the eight couples remained friends. As it happens, two of the other couples are also Christians, one couple has started to show an interest in spiritual things recently, but the other couple – to our knowledge, at least – hasn’t. But they are our friends, regardless. We enjoy each other’s company. None of the other families has moved away, only us. But when we return, we seem to pick up where we left off.
Debbie and I are glad to have both Christian and non-Christian friends – both from before we ever met each other, and since. Some of the families we know through school here are good friends. As far as we know, only one of those families is Christian.
I think back to 2003, when I was on a sabbatical. We got away from Methodism and worshipped at the nearby Baptist Church, where we knew the pastor and his wife quite well. When he (or one or two others) preached, it was thoughtful and challenging. However, there were some regulars in the pulpit who were not so good.
One was a church deacon. He prowled across the dais like an evangelical superstar, waiting to pounce like a spiritual lion. In one sermon, he told us how Christian friends would always be there for us, but it would never be true of non-Christians. They would ask you how you were, but would not be interested in your response.
Both of us are grateful for friends who have stuck with us in the darkest of times, not all of them people who share our faith at all.
People are made in the image of God, and are capable of good and loving acts. Those acts are not salvific, but neither are ours. We hope we can be a model of Christian love – that our deliberate intention to cultivate friendships will be missional.
I’m glad we’re not trapped in the holy huddle. Thank God for our non-Christian friends.