We have the freedom to disobey God but not the freedom to escape the consequences of that disobedience. Those who are faithful to God may be relatively few, but He does not forget them.
~Gotquestions.org (Book of Zephaniah)~
Sometimes it’s hard to know the best way to deal with a friend or a loved one who disagrees with you about issues of spirituality and faith. It’s also very difficult to know how to express to them the hope that they might share in the joy you are feeling as you progress in your own faith. This is especially true when they seem to be offended by your assertions of faith no matter how great or small. “You are being judgemental,” or “You think you’re better than me because you go to church,” or “I don’t have to believe the way you believe to be right,” are all things that I’ve heard when I’ve tried to explain what has been happening in my life these days. While trying to make them understand the absolute joy of having found your faith again after years or even a lifetime of confusion, it seems that you are only alienating them further and not getting close at all to helping them find the joy you have found. Is it true that we cannot share this experience? Is it likely that no other person will ever understand how it felt to us when we accepted God into our heart? That it’s always a different experience for each person?
In thinking about this, I had to remind myself that whenever a person feels threatened by something their first response to it is likely to be a negative one. When you tell someone that you really wish they would come to church with you and their response is “I don’t have to go to church to have a relationship with God,” then it’s best just to let them marinate on that. A few months ago, I might have given you the very same answer. But something has changed. And unfortunately, I can’t explain it in a way that sounds anything but arrogant to someone who is steadfastly holding to toxic ways and beliefs that justify their distance from God.
Although I can’t profess to know how close another person is with God, I can certainly tell where they are in their ability to trust God and believe in Him by how much of what they do and say mirrors the behavior that the Bible tells us is acceptable or unacceptable to Him. I can’t say that you aren’t speaking to Him every day, you may very well be. But I can say that I’m uncomfortable with some of the choices I see you making that I know wouldn’t meet with His approval. I can’t judge you, but I can call a sin a sin. And whether or not you take it the wrong way depends on how badly you want to follow Him, not on how much you want or need to impress me. I don’t matter, but you can’t just give Him ninety percent and say he’ll understand why you’re not going all in. He’s a forgiving God, but He knows when we are trying to manipulate things to justify holding onto what we aren’t yet ready to let go of.
So, how do we express concern without sounding like we think we know it all? Well, it may not be possible. Who knows what will be offensive to someone these days? If they can sit through some of the music on the radio and much of what’s on television without batting an eye, but become really upset when you talk to them about God’s expectations, then how can you ever hope to help them find salvation? Sadly, some people answer your concern with rude comments about having religion “crammed down their throats” or about what they perceive to be your self-righteous behavior and how it hurts or offends them. Heaven forbid you be confident in how God has worked in you. The truth is that people who truly love and trust God will not be offended by your concern and they certainly won’t try to tear you down because you care what happens to them. They simply may not know how to pursue Him and maybe, your concern is the nudge they need to help them find Him again. We are taking a chance each time we talk about religion or faith with the people we love, but if we are doing it for the right reasons then God will work out the tension. He will clear the air.
Until a person is ready to make changes in their life, it won’t matter what they do to appease us. Don’t expect someone to take a leap until they are prepared for the impact of the fall. It may in fact, hit us all differently, but once we are there we can certainly understand why someone would have been trying to help us find Him. The further away we are, the longer it takes to get it. Be patient and let Him do what He needs to do in that person to make them understand that you are not the enemy. As the song says, it’ll be worth it after all.
“To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy, to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”