Can Christians really be friends and connect with those of other faiths?
For most of us, it's impossible to go a week, a day even, without interacting with someone from a different faith or of no faith at all. Whether it's a synagogue near our work or a sign for halal meat in our local supermarket, we're constantly reminded of the multi-faith society that we live in. More than just coming across people of different faiths, a lot of Christians will have friends who pray to and believe in different gods too. But should we?
As Christians, it's not our place to judge but to love. Jesus shows us throughout the Bible the inclusivity of his love, and that's how our practice of Christianity should be. Jesus chose to spend his time with all different types of people (Luke 19:1-10). He didn't shut himself off from those who did not believe he was the Son of God and neither should we.
It's undeniable that there are common values and ideas between different faiths. And maintaining friendships with non-Christians can cause us to positively re-examine our own commitment to God. We need look no further than Christians4Ramadan for an example of this.
Having friends of different faiths also provides us with innumerable opportunities to share the good news of God's love for us, bear witness to Jesus and introduce people to Christ. But there is no need for us to aggressively attempt to convert our friends of Muslim, Jewish or any other faith to Christianity. "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect," (1 Peter 3:15). The thought of discussing our faith with our friends can fill some of us with dread, but this verse is a source of encouragement. Here we find advice on how we can approach these types of conversations and a reminder that gentleness and respect is vital when doing so.
There are many differences between Islam and Christianity, and Christianity and Judaism, but there are similarities too. However, these areas of common ground, whatever they may be, should not be the driving force behind our friendships. Instead, remembering that love is central to Christianity is the way that we can really assess the validity of our inter-faith friendships.