Would I Still Be a Christian If Most of My Friends Were Not?

A few months ago I promised I had more “Would I still be a Christian if…” questions coming down the pike. I think I’ve been subconsciously avoiding writing about these questions despite my promise to. You see, they’re difficult and make me question my dependency on religion and I can’t handle that type of questioning every week. But between the last post about still being a Christian if I were not born into a Christian family and now, I think I’ve mustered the gusto.

Would I still be a Christian if most of my friends were not? Sadly, there has only been a small time frame in my life when I could say the majority of my friends were not Christians: my first several months in Oxford. And even saying the majority may not be accurate, so let’s say the people I was getting to know best and felt closest to were not Christians. This perfectly coincided with the period I felt the deepest doubt in my faith. Until then, I had always considered myself a “doubter.” But in those months I realized I had never seriously doubted God. Even when I claimed to, I was still evaluating the life around me as if He existed. Spending so much time with my new friends who were either agnostic or atheist allowed me to feel, for the first time, what it would be like to not believe in God at all.

It was dark. It seemed empty. Yet these friends had a capacity for love that I did not expect. They were the type who would do anything for you, just like my Christian friends back home. And slowly I began to understand how I  could love someone without the belief that “someone first loved me.” And that love was so fierce, because it was all they had, all they had to live for and they knew they didn’t have many years to do it.

Ultimately, I made close friends with people I went to church with in Oxford, spending the majority of my time with them. And that coincided with a type of reviving of my faith–an even deeper belief in it than before.

But what if those Christian friends had not come along? And my understanding of living without faith continued to make more sense as I spent most of my time with my agnostic/atheist friends? And what does that mean about Christianity if it can’t stand alone? Or what does it mean about me, if I can’t believe on my own?

And now it will be another several months before I ask a “Would I still be a Christian if…” question.

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26 Comments

Filed under Asking the Hard Questions, Solving Life's Mysteries, Traveling Global

26 responses to “Would I Still Be a Christian If Most of My Friends Were Not?

  1. Jon

    What I found to be the hardest thing to go through is having a core group of friends that are/were Christians, and then have them oust me from the group. Challenged my faith more than the group of friends that aren’t Christians to be honest.

    • MB

      I came on here about to say the same thing. Right now I have had 3 friends who are in ministry positions even tell me I wasn’t worth being friends with. I was given absolutely no reason (and many times I’ve deserved what I have been given, but this last time..no way) for the kick to curb. The person was just a jerk and had her own issues that were seemingly bigger than mine apparently. Anyway, I have sort of gone into this introspective shell because of it and has sworn off friendships, for now anyway, and am evaluating my faith at all. I know God does not equate to what kind of jerks people are so I do believe in God, but I doubt a lot of things about what people have told me thus far. One is the biblical basis for church at all.

  2. Andrea! This is such a hard question. I think there are two equal critical considerations to make when thinking about this: first of all, having a Christian community is so useful for bolstering our own faith, which your story about Oxford affirms. That resonates: a lot of my closest friends are pretty ambivalent about their faith, or the remnants of it, and their ambivalence affects my faith, for sure. And I’m reminded of the Katie Christian/Peter Pagan illustration Robin Jones Gunn used in one of the Christy Miller books, to demonstrate that it’s easier to be pulled out of a Godly lifestyle than into it. (Did you read Robin Jones Gunn books ever?) But the other consideration (to my mind, at least) is: if all our friends are already Christians, who are we leading to Christ? How do we live the great commission if we don’t have relationships with people who don’t know Christ? There has to be balance, I think.

    • Thanks, Kerry. I agree: balance is key. I haven’t read any Robin Jones Gunn but I love the phrase “Katie Christian/Peter Pagan.” :) It reminds me of two characters my dad made up to teach me and my sisters about morals and faith when we were younger: Sally Sweetie and Gary Grumpy. Seriously, we talked a lot about Sally and Gary growing up.

  3. Wow, good stuff. That’s a challenging thought. For most of my life, my friends have been Christians; For the most part, I’m surrounded by people that attend the same church that I do, that hold the same passions and values that I do. As I’ve been working in the city more, it’s really challenged me: suppose the majority of my interaction were with these people? People who don’t know Christ, who don’t live for Him? How would I hold up? I think that’s a question we need to ask. Because Christianity based on what the people are around me, isn’t much, at best.
    And I agree with Jon. Sometimes being ousted and/or set apart by your Christian friends, tests you even more than the same rejection by your non-Christian friends.
    Thanks for the thoughts. Keep going!

  4. I often wonder this myself as a college student going through much of the same things you went through in your time at Oxford. In my freshman year, I really learned what it meant to doubt God and act as though He never really existed — even now with Christian friends and a growing faith, I find it extremely easy to fall back into an ungodly lifestyle. It’s not even the fact that I have multiple atheist or agnostic friends, but it’s fellow Christians who are dormant in their faith and accept life as the world views it. Really appreciate the post and any suggestions you have for living a more God-driven lifestyle in the world of college and academia, please share! :)

    • Good point Erik (and Jon), sometimes Christians can be more discouraging to our faith than anyone else. I once heard someone say the most dangerous type of person is the one claiming to be a Christian but is, as you put it, dormant inside.

      As for living a Christian lifestyle on the collegiate world, I experienced a lot of academic push-back to my faith in Oxford. Some of that push back came from others’ arguments and some came from my own discoveries through studying. Basically I’ve decided there are those who believe faith can be proved through science and academics and those who mostly depend on their personal experiences to believe what they do. I think I’m of the latter kind but greatly admire the former.
      Thanks for your thoughts!

  5. victoria

    Well most of my friends aren’t Christians and I’ve never really had luck becoming real friends with Christians because I always seem to feel not “christian enough” and paranoid. I mostly feel quite pressurized to be a the stereotypical Christian with Christian friendships. With non-Christian friends I’ve still found that my lifestyle and morals are still subject to what the bible says and how the holy spirit leads me and my relationship with God is extremely precious and private to me still on. I believe that I would be a Christian if my most of my friends were not because that’s the case for me now, but I do pray and hope for more Christian friends because the word stresses so much about the importance of us as a Christian family.

    • Victoria, people like you are my heroes. The ones who are so steady in their faith and are not satisfied with filling the stereotypical Christian mold. I hope you never do. And I hope you find other Christians like you who are pursuing Christ without worrying how they go about it.

  6. Sarah Starrenburg

    I used to wonder about whether the whole Christian community thing was a crutch to faith, until I realised God actually is community himself, as the Trinity, and it’s impossible for me to understand and live out a reflection of his nature purely as an individual.

  7. i almost don’t have christians friends really.
    I’m from brazil.
    i think that the people of the church are not helping the others that really needing.. like me.
    are not giving ATTENTION. :/

  8. I enjoyed your article a lot. :) Reminded me of when I decided to leave my old religion behind. I had a lot of friends at my previous religion but because God called me to where I am today, I had to leave them and upon converting, I had this urge to seek God more than the Christian friends and I have to say I was able to come through though my growth isn’t as great as it is now.

    Now that I do have great and awesome Christian friends, I’m growing but that doesn’t mean I’m leaving my non-Christian friends. Nope. I still hang out with them, a LOT! hahahaha But when I do hang out with my Christian friends, we encourage each other through prayer and God’s Word. :) My heart is for my non-Christian friends would find in their hearts to know who Jesus is eventually (and hopefully my life would be a testimony to how Jesus can really transform lives).

  9. My first thought was, yes, of course I would still be a Christian even if me friends weren’t. I have walked that road. It’s not popular but it is the route I have chosen no matter what.

    As for your comment about non-Christians and their love, I think that it’s unfortunate but sometimes Christians have a lot to learn from nonChristians about love. They love because those they love are all they have and they love well. Sometimes we, as Christians, get caught up in nitpicky things and forget to love… how naive and un-Christ-like we can be.

    Katie

  10. MB

    I was reading this book about the holocaust called Maus. The son by the name of Artie is crying because his friends ditched him. His dad says, “Friends? Friends? Put them in a room without any food for a week and I show you what friends!” That’s sort of how I feel about friends and Christian ones at that. Christian friends can have a great impact on a person, but when you question something they believe or they put you on a pedestal and you fall, they can be the most discouraging types of friends to have. I am so sick of legalistic Christians (and by saying this, I am sort of a hypocrite) that dole out grace and mercy to the drug dealer, but smack you upside the head with your own Bible if you are a struggling Christian. To that, I think I will pass.

    • May I make a suggestion, as a fellow Christian? I’ve been where you are right now. So upset at the people I felt like were just hypocritical. Wasting months of a life that was never mine to waste. I’m not perfect, but I have found absolutely thrilling freedom in deliberately choosing to look at Jesus; to live just to make Him look as great and wonderful as He is. Living to worship Him. Living (and absolutely loving it) to cause others to praise HIM. And all that misery and unforgiveness in my heart towards THOSE PEOPLE is slowly melting away. It just doesn’t matter anymore. God’s given you and I lives that are so fragile, so short. Please don’t waste it! It’s not worth it. If He is all that matters in life, GO FOR IT, MB! Live it for Him! And if it makes you feel better, live life to prove that there’s more to it than what we’ve experienced already. ;) God bless you… couldn’t resist sharing.

  11. I like the article and I can really see the points as being true, though myself I probably went the opposite route in that I started my walk without any christian friends and have steadily found them.

    I will say its probably different for everyone but being amongst non christians seems to strenthen my faith as it allows me to understand where I am coming from and forces me to define myself. I don’t argue over theology but I love to discuss the inner meaning.

    There are indeed some great non christians who show some amazing love. and some individuals who call themselves christ followers but are so lacking the ability to love another!

  12. Annette

    My group of friends throughout college became like my extended family. I was the only Christian among my friends. I maintained my faith, but looking back now I’m afraid they influenced me more than I influenced them. I didn’t even realize it at the time. The verse in 1 Cor. 15:33 Do not be deceived: Bad company corrupts good morals.(NASB) I found it to be true. I made too many compromises.

    I wrongly assumed that Jesus invited into his company tax collectors (would be like the mob today), prostitutes, etc. therefore I could spend majority of my time with non-believers too and not be changed. That’s deception #1 –People may have had questionable character when they MET Jesus, but they turned their lives around and followed Him. When they were hanging out with Jesus – they were no longer prostitutes and tax collectors … they left that life behind. That’s the difference.

    That’s when I realized my relationship with Jesus and studying the Bible had to take priority. Because life wasn’t a game and allowing myself to be deceived was too costly. I still love my old friends, but spending all my time with them, wouldn’t do them or me any good. If I compromise to fit in, then what good am I too them.

  13. Jeremy Simonson

    I was totally there once, in highschool. I never put much thought into it until now. I believe Jesus knew my heart then and He knows it now, so He knows what I need to continue in His way. Whether surrounded by supportive Christian friends or temporarily subdued by trials I know Jesus loves me and has my best interests in mind.
    Thanks for making me think
    God Bless

  14. Summer

    Most of the time, I am embarrassed to call myself a Christian. Let’s be the difference. We know what not to do. Someone is going to have to teach our Christian friends how to be Christ like. Let it be us…. Love will change their hearts and heal them up.

    Being a Christian isn’t about how we “feel”. It’s a choice. We have chosen God. And He is our amazing, loving Father who has chosen us. So of course you would be a Christian without Christian friends. We are not man pleasers anyways. We are God pleasers.

  15. Very good piece! Very intrigued by your comments. Especially about your observations concerning atheists and agnostics capacity to love. Was very surprised by your findings. Always thought those void of God in their life would have a diminished capacity to love. Would you comment a little more about that?

  16. Jackelyne Borges

    Hi, Andrea (you have the same name as my closest friend!),
    like last week’s question, I rather to rely on God and His Word. I know I can’t stand alone because God made me to be with other people, and of course, with Himself (though sometimes I’d like to be lonely on Earth with God as Adam was!). Furthermore, I believe that I can’t create my own faith, Jesus is my faith’s Author, I must cultivate it, and care for it’s growth, but it’s not my place to worry about me being capable of believeing because (again) that’s God’s job. Maybe my answer shows a bit of my insecurity, maybe not, but that’s what I really think about it.
    I LOVE your blog!
    PS: please forgive the semantic mistakes, I am brazilian and my first language is Portuguese.

  17. Hi Andrea, i’m from Brazil but i’m reading your blog always!
    I’m doing law college, and most of my friends are not christian, i’m suffering with this, because they show things to me that i would like to do, but i know that i’m the difference in this world and fortunately i’m winning this war inside of me!
    but because I am Christian, that prevents me from making strong friendships with non-Christian, have things they say, love to talk and I can not speak, one example are my friends talking about sex, they love talking about it, and they realized that I get embarrassed to talk about these issues, then they exclude me ( thanks God)!
    It’s really a difficult question, we must have a limit to everything, and sometimes it costs a few friends!
    in my case, I have more facilities to make friends with Christian people, but I’m survive to friends non-Christian, but I’m very happy because next year I will spend two years in a seminary of praise and worship! Although my mother is not Christian, she allowed me to
    The truth is that i’ll never get live without Christ!!

    ( I hope you understand my English, I’m not very good yet)
    :)

  18. Wow, amazing post! At some point in my life, I asked that question to God too. And I think, I still will be. :) It’s amazing how God calls you, runs after you, persistently pursuing you – all because He loves you.

    One of the things I have found to be most important in my Christian walk is having friends who believe in God, they help you grow and you help them grow! In Proverbs 27:17 it says, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” You walk together to be better :)

    Praying for everyone, hope you find your close knit Christ-committed friends :)

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