UNFILTERED #4: I have lots of friends (tbh i don't want them to mix)
Shernese is a young worker and a regular at Headstart. You can tell she works in marketing by her acute fashion sense, her bubbly personality and warm smile. We also can vouch that she has lots (and lots!) of friends which made her the perfect person to share her reflections after attending UNFILTERED #2: I have lots of friends (tbh i don't want them to mix).
Night in a tweet:
Mixing our friends is scary – but with God by our side we don’t need to feel fear and can aim for the potential benefits instead.
Let's be honest: we all have lots of friends. From basically everywhere: church friends, uni friends, high school friends, family friends, work friends, Headstart friends... the list goes on (and on). And it’s more than likely that these circles already are split into two groups – Christians and non-Christians. Having friendships with different groups, irrespective of their faith is a wonderful thing - a blessing of a technicolour God who cherishes diversity in his creation... but if we're honest, we not only split our friends into two groups... we like to keep the groups separate. And to keep it real... - have our friendship circles ever mixed?
Merging Universes: a Hesitation
This week at Headstart, David talked us through that uncomfortable feeling when our universes collide. For me, my church friends and non-Christian work friends hadn’t met before so when we were planning our wedding, the looming question was Do I invite my work friends?
So many questions crossed my mind – What will my work friends think about Christians? What if my Christian friends don’t like the way my work friends have fun? Deep down, I think my biggest fear was “What would my friends think of me?” At the heart of it, our Headstart community agreed that these friend groups don’t share common ground – they’re a bit like oil and water. And if these groups don’t or aren’t able to gel, it could lead to some very awkward silences, confrontations and maybe even heated arguments which all could impact upon our own personal relationships. If we put ourselves “out there” to mix, our friends might let us down.
David likened that prospect to the Prisoner’s Dilemma, a fundamental element of game theory (if you haven’t studied Economics or come across this concept before, check out the dilemma here). Essentially, when our friendship groups collide there are four scenarios that could take place. All of these seem to lead to poor consequences except for the top left where both friend groups mix. That’s only a 25% chance that the encounter goes well - not great odds!
|Non-Christians mix||Non Christians don't mix|
Christians don’t mix,
|Christians don't mix||
Non-Christians don’t mix
Christians don’t mix,
Non-Christians don’t mix
Biblical universes: a Collision
Yes, the 75% is daunting and it's understandable that it triggers hesitation when mixing our friends. However, looking at the bible, David reminded us that these scenarios aren’t that bad. Why? Because Jesus is the ultimate universe-mixer.
In Luke 9:51-56, Jesus and his disciples (Jews) interact with a Samaritan village. Here, Jesus sees the dilemma and still mixes his Jewish and Samaritan universes. Result? Not the positive outcome that he hoped for when the Samaritan village rejected them and yet such a negative outcome didn't stop Jesus from merging the universes. What's more interesting was how His disciples reacted in anger but Jesus did not. In the face of a negative outcome, Jesus knew something his disciples didn't - and that was that His belonging was in God and so failure did not stop Jesus from merging universes again and again.
On the flip side, in John, when we see Jesus encounter a Samaritan woman at the well, we see a great outcomes – “Many of the Samaritans from the town believed in [Jesus] because of the woman’s testimony” (John 4:39). The merging paid off. While merging universes can be scary and the odds might appear to be not great, we know that we need not fear failure and of course, the potential pay off is far better. Further, by standing in the way of universes mixing, we’re missing out on great opportunities to share the gospel more widely.
How to mix our friends
With these sorts of topics, it can be easier said than done. As such, David left us with three practical tips:
- Find common ground: Your friends may have more in common than you think – look beyond the Christian and non-Christian labels. Plus, their most obvious piece of common ground is you!
- Be prepared: If you are going to introduce your friends to each other, make sure that you are ready to talk about your faith, be open about the different friendships you hold and pray about the opportunity
- Be a friend: This one is easily forgotten but is crucial to our relationships. Don’t stress too much about pulling out Two Ways To Live or having Christian friends share the gospel in the first meeting.
Even to this day, my friends don’t know each other and the thought of them meeting does scare me. Although the odds of my friends not getting along are high, the new question I’ll ask myself is “What’s the worst that could happen?” with full confidence that no matter the outcome, God provides us with belonging and a better plan.