April 04

To My Non-Christian Friends

For many years I’ve wanted to write about the things I wish my non-Christian friends understood about my faith. I’ve never felt as though I could do the idea justice and I worried that I’d alienate you or you’d think I’m trying to judge or convert you but I’ve decided that it’s time to try.

I’ve received many messages this week from other people who are worried that if they express their faith people will link us to religious extremists, whose views we do not share. I just want to be accepted for who I am and that person happens to be a Christian. Most of my friends are not Christians who attend services regularly or believe that God has a plan for their lives. We have other things in common and I am grateful for their presence in my life.

I have a deep and abiding faith. It governs every decision. Although I wish you did too because I want you to have the comfort it has given me, I truly don’t judge you for not having an interest in God or believing in him. That’s your business. I just want you to be happy and live your best life. Really.

Faith is a path not a destination. I haven’t figured out every aspect of my faith. I believe in Evil for example but not unbaptized babies or the good people of other faiths like the Dalai Lama burning in Hell for example. Faith evolves and being comfortable with ambiguity is part of being a person of faith in my mind.

I think God calls all of us to his table. You may be screening your calls and I have no problem with that. I screened mine for the first 30 years of my life because I wasn’t ready. You may never be ready and I’m not over here judging you and thinking that you’re going to burn in Hell for all eternity because aren’t on the God Squad.

Faith sometimes seems very distant, too distant at times, and sometimes, usually when I really, really need it, floods my heart. But when it’s in the forefront of my thinking and decisions, I’m the best version of myself.

People of faith can choose which aspects of the faith that are the primary influence in their lives. My God is compassionate toward me, understands and forgives me when I make bad choices and wants me to use my time, treasure and talents in a way that makes the world better. Because I’m human, I’m not always able to live up to that goal. I often fall short but it’s clear what God wants me to do most of the time. The hard part is that my ego, greed, fear and fatigue and my worst qualities sometimes make me want to throw a tantrum like a 5 year old because doing the right thing is often really, really hard. I think he wants good things for you too, even if you’re not a believer.

I rarely use the word “sin” which is so associated with Christianity because it tends to be a black or white sort of word. I also am uncomfortable with the “born sinners” concept. I find it more useful to my life to think in terms of good and bad choices and good or bad intent.

I believe in science. As one dear friend used to say, “Reading the Bible is not like reading a newspaper or science textbook. The Bible is intended to help us understand God’s plan. We need to read the Bible to look between the lines for God’s messages to us.”

When I pray I don’t pray for a wish list of things I want to happen. I pray for discernment and wisdom, to know what to do and how to do it. I pray for comfort when things look like they are going to be painful or hard. I pray for acceptance to help me figure out what to do when I’ve suffered a loss.

I want to understand your beliefs. I want you to understand the importance of mine to me. We don’t need to believe the same things. We just need to understand and respect the importance that each has in the life of the other. Mostly I wish you peace, regardless of your beliefs and I’m glad you’re my friend.