I have been criticized in the past, by fellow Christians, for having close friendships with people who are not Christians. It's true, I have friends who are Pagan, Buddhist, Agnostic, Atheist, and some who don't fit into any one category; my friends, they run the gamut. This has caused some people to question my faith because I don't adhere to setting myself apart enough. Those who criticize are welcome to their opinion, of course, but I respectfully disagree with said opinion. I will admit that having such varied friendships might not work for all Christians, and those who feel they can't hold onto their faith and their non-Christian friendships at the same time may wish to sequester themselves, so as not to get off track. For me, however, it just doesn't make sense.
Why would I want to deprive myself of time spent with wonderful people simply because they don't believe in Jesus the way I do? I gain so much from my friends, and iinstead of standing between me and God, it actually brings me closer to him and I have an example of this very thing happening in my life.
Recently, I was feeling rather resentful of various people, the details of why I was annoyed (read: judgmental) of these people doesn't matter; this is not about them, it is about me. I complained to a friend about this annoyingly judgmental attitude I had. This is a friend who happens to be a... well, I am not exactly sure how she would categorize her form of spirituality, but it is not traditional Christianity, of that I am certain. She listen patiently as I spoke of my annoyance and told me, not in so many words, but in essence - The problem is not with those who annoy you, Kim, the problem is with you and the way you are choosing to look at this issue. You have perspective problems, my friend, and you really should get your mind in focus.
Her observation struck me right between the eyes because, that is exactly what I believe Jesus would have said were he speaking to me himself. As a matter of fact, I know he would have, because I have evidence of him saying likewise to people in scripture. In hearing what she had to say, it reminded me of Jesus' perspective and forced me to swing my focus back to him; to see my situation through the lens of my faith. It was a clear answer to my prayer, for God to open my eyes and allow me to see people as he did.
So, if anyone has the notion that non-Christians don't share our values or have no insight to share with Christians, I am here to dispel that notion. It is not true at all, beliefs and values are not the same things. And there is much to be learned from all people, regardless of their belief system. Jesus doesn't restrict his teachings to the Bible, nor to preachers, church leaders, theologians and Christians. Jesus can't be contained or constrained the way some would have us believe. Jesus speaks to us through everything and everyone; it is our job, as his followers, to listen. We have to open our minds and our hearts to whatever mode of communication he chooses to lead us through.
Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. ~Psalm 143:10
The earth is filled with your love, O LORD; teach me your decrees. ~Psalm 119:64