Have you ever been in a situation where you felt strongly about something and your friends think differently? How was that situation handled?
This past weekend some friends and I went into Boston for an evening outing. We first went to this outdoor social space that has light-up swings and a bunch of lawn games, and then proceeded to go to the Boston Harbor area to grab a bite to eat. For the majority of the group, this was a comfortable, fun outing with friends. For some though, this atmosphere really affected them. Let me explain.
One of my friends is a whole different person in Christ than he was just a year ago. He openly admits he has struggled with addiction in the past but has been sober for just about a year now (PRAISE GOD!). The last time that he was in the city however, he was still using. The place where the rest of us were just casually walking around and hanging out was triggering a memory within him.
He thankfully was able to open up to some of us about it later that night, and here’s what I told him, “If you are uncomfortable, we can leave.” Now I’m not tooting my own horn here with how I was able to handle this, because it is the grace of God, but I know what it feels like to be uncomfortable in a particular setting – often left out and misunderstood.
As Christ followers I love that we all come from such different backgrounds and that The Lord pursues the sinner’s heart as well as the righteous. We are all in need of a Savior no matter how you grew up or where you come from.
My family and I didn’t know Christ until I was about 18. Praise God for His unending love and abounding grace. When I first became a Christian there were a lot of things that triggered bad memories for me. Music was a big one, as well as settings where there was a party atmosphere. Those were difficult years of figuring out who I was in Christ while truly trying to renew myself in Him. So what did I do? I only listened to Christian music for a long time and I would stay far away from any setting that would make me feel uncomfortable. Many times I felt misunderstood, like I was stuck up for not wanting to go to some get-togethers or that I was weird for not listening to the radio anymore. Looking back, I think I absolutely could have handled my convictions with more of God’s grace and not been so legalistic about them, but I also wish that more people were understanding that even though it didn’t impact them negatively, I wasn’t weird for it affecting me.
So what can we all learn from these scenarios?
“So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.”
Now I know these passages are talking about the subject of food because that is what the issue was during this period, but do you think it could also be applied as a general principle to be more understanding, loving and caring for the people around us? That even though it may be okay for us, it may not be for them?
“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”
Just as an update, I am now able to listen to a lot of secular music as well as go to places that might have somewhat of a party atmosphere and it’s only by the grace of God. I feel healed from many things of my past and freer today than ever before and I know God’s work is not done yet.
So friend, be encouraged if you feel like you’re the odd one out. It may only be a season. Regardless of the time frame, pursue God. Look to Him to always be renewing you from the inside out and thank Him that He does! Also, find friends that are understanding, supportive, compassionate and will challenge you to be more Christ-like each day.
And for those who may not completely understand friends with different convictions, get to know why they are the way they are. Seek to understand so that you can be the friend that they need during this period of time. You could be a huge blessing God uses to help sort some of their past out so that they can move forward FREE IN CHRIST.
So friend, be encouraged if you feel like you’re the odd one out. It may only be a season. Regardless of the time frame, pursue God.