There is an epidemic of loneliness out there. However, this provides us with a great opportunity to serve people, because one of the most effective ways to take Jesus into the world is to simply be a friend to a person who needs one. "But our too-pagan, too-Christian paradox presents some interesting problems when applied to our friendships."
#1 - Many Christians Don't Even Have "Pagan" Friends:
Many of those who are "too Christian" have never felt it important enough to take the time to "nurture friendships with 'pagans' because they have spent so much time hanging out with other Christians."
#2 - Many Christians Become Friends With "Pagans" Only In An Attempt To Convert Them:
Evangelistic zeal can be good, but when it becomes our only goal in developing friendships, too often we view people as targets for our efforts instead of relating to them as fellow human beings created by God. "We are embarrassingly capable of becoming ministry machines, clustering people into categories and then intentionally organizing our time with them to accomplish our purposes." A calculating and manipulating evangelistically driven Christian usually does not make a very good friend at all.
#3 - Many Christians Have No Influence On Their "Pagan" Friends:
While being too intentionally specific is probably worse than not having any "pagan" friends, what is even worse is the Christian with many "pagan" friends who has no spiritual influence on them at all. Many believers have "friendships with pagan friends who know nothing of our spiritual convictions" because we feel that portion of our lives, our relationship with God, is a personal, private thing. Like a turtle, we retreat into our shell. We have adopted a 'don't ask, don't tell' mentality regarding our faith. But, we must remember, some day "we will give an accounting for our silence with our friends."
So, if that's the negative what is the positive in regards to being a true friend and remedying this epidemic of loneliness we see all around us?
Being A True Friend:
An authentic friend lets a relationship develop naturally out of daily conversations, activities and interests. God will either lead you to new friends or He will lead them to you, and you don't have use or develop any kind of strategy for it to happen. There is no need to try and force it.
So, how are you going to recognize it when it happens? One dictionary defines a friend as 'a person you know, like, and trust.' A real friend is one you can depend on.
Real friends are there when you are struggling or in trouble, or when you just need an uplifting word. They are there for you during the good times and they stay by your side during the bad times. A true friend accepts the person even in times when they need to show disapproval of their bad decisions or actions. Staying by someone's side even when you think they are going down a foolish, misguided path is an important component of true friendship. Friendships that are "conditioned on approval are [far] less durable than friendships 'for better or for worse.'"
Let me close this up with a few final thoughts:
If you really do want to be more effective in bringing Jesus into your world, then one of the best places to start is to just be the kind of friend that Jesus was and is. Ask your self this, 'is, and was, Jesus a friend to sinners?' Absolutely. He walked with them, talked with them, partied with them, and taught them. Jesus is the lover of souls. There is a huge difference between someone who is only interested in "winning souls," and someone who truly loves your soul. Like Jesus, we need to be lovers of souls.
(Portions in quotation marks are from "Too Christian Too Pagan" by Dick Staub)