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Open Your Eyes: Developing Deeper Relationships with Your Non-Christian Friends


Brad died this year. It was the year for us to turn 40, but he won’t reach this milestone with the rest of our graduating class. Death has a way of making you think about life, about relationships. His visitation and funeral brought in friends from around the country—people I hadn’t seen in over twenty years.

In the days after, I thought a lot about these high school friendships. I couldn’t recall a common denominator that had brought us all together aside from being in the same place at the same time. We were athletes, AP students, performers, video producers, Christians, atheists, rich, poor. We were so different, but we were connected. These were my people; hours and hours of my life shared with them.

But then most of us left. And as we got older, time and distance took us to new places, new communities, new priorities.

Instead of diversity, we found people who looked more like us, whose values matched our values. We became more segregated. Because, honestly, it was easier. It is easier.

I’ve mourned the loss of Brad, but I’ve also grieved deeply over changed relationships. In the quest for like-minded, Jesus-centered, deep, and meaningful friendships, I looked up and realized my social sphere reflected my image… maybe a little too much.

Maybe you can relate.

Maybe you, too, live in the tension of longing for depth among your Christian community while also desiring to broaden and deepen your reach among those who might not believe what you believe. I don’t always think these relationships, these “spheres,” have to be as different as I’ve often made them in my mind to be.  

So how can you manage the tension? How do you love and invest in your non-Christian friendships along with your Christian community? Here are three choices you can make, no matter who you’re with, to help develop meaningful and sincere relationships with a diverse group of people.

1. Choose to Stay

In a world where the grass is always greener, where we tend to leave your current circumstances for something (potentially) better…what if you stayed?

Staying usually keeps you connected to people you already have relationships with. Every time you leave, you’re starting over.  And your histories get shorter with those you live close to. But when you know you’re staying put for a while, it’s easier to invest more of you into more people around you. You frequent the same restaurants and grocery stores. Your kids grow up together. Your co-workers become friends.

It becomes easier to dive deeper into relationships because you have more shared experiences, more time together, more reason to care. Even if they don’t believe what you believe.

When you move, when you change jobs, when you church hop, when you switch book clubs, when you go to a different gym…all of it impacts your relationships. Avoiding anonymity and putting in the hard work and time to invest—these are the biggest battles.

2. Choose Genuine Curiosity and Care

What does it look like to actually care about other people? Caring enough to know, to ask questions, to show up? You can be the type of person who fakes this, or you can be the type of person who really takes a genuine interest in someone else’s life. When you choose curiosity and care, depth and meaning follow over time in any relationship.

After all, when someone knows that you genuinely care and want to know about them… when they really trust that? True relationships, relationships that bring people to your door in the midst of a crisis, relationships where you genuinely care about the souls on the other side – these are inevitable.

3. Choose to Be Real

 As a Christian, it’s easy to feel the pressure to “have it all together”, especially when we know our hope is ultimately in Jesus. It can feel hard to grieve or yell or be angry… basically, it can feel hard to be human. But there’s something powerful (and vulnerable) about being exactly that: human.  

Letting others into your hopeful mess can be transformative. When they see how you respond to loss or handle trials, when you ask them for forgiveness or offer forgiveness when they hurt you…they get to witness, in real time, God’s transforming work in your life. However, when you hide from others, whether Christians or not, you are effectively denying people the ability to see God refining you. So for their sake and for your own, choose to be real. 

You Can’t Change the Past

After losing Brad, a part of me deeply wished I had stayed connected to all my high school friends. Some part of me wished I had stayed, that I had remained genuinely curious about those friends’ lives, that I had been more honest about the hard things in my own life. But I can’t change the past.

However, I can do things differently for my relationships in the future.

Brad’s death has pushed me to consider how I am relating to those around me and investing in those relationships. It’s caused me to open my eyes a bit wider to really see and want to love the people—God’s image bearers—who I’m already crossing paths with.

Open Your Eyes 

As you’re going about your day-to-day life, think about the spheres you’re living in.

How segregated are you? Who do you hang out with and why? How can you work to deepen your relationships, no matter what sphere you are in? Where do you need to stay? Who do you need to show genuine care and concern for? Where can you be curious? How can you be more authentic in your relationships?

“I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”
John 4:35

In this passage, Jesus gives this surprising command to his disciples after they asked why he spent time talking with a Samaritan woman at the well.

I wonder if his plea to us today would be similar.

Open your eyes! There are people all around you who are thirsty for the Living Water, who are thirsty for Me. Get to know them. Love them. Tell them.   

Your time is finite. Your capacity is limited. Your call is clear.

All of it takes effort. All of it costs us something. Open your eyes.

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