This might seem kind of strange, but I am really worried about a friend of mine. And I have some questions for you.
I'm a college junior. When I left for college, my parents gave me your book How to Stay Christian in College, but although I read it, I didn't really think about it much until I met my new neighbors at the beginning of this year. One of them is a very talented musician, smart, and a great guy. We hit it off from the start. He writes his own music, sings and plays the guitar. Before he came to college he recorded original Christian music.
Apparently last year he started having doubts about his faith. Now he says that although he's not sure what he believes, he's not a Christian. He really wanted to date me when we first met, and I kind of wanted to also, because he is an awesome person.
The not-believing-in-God thing really bothers me, though. I really don't know what to say to him. Since then we have become good friends and gotten kind of physical in our relationship. I know that I shouldn't, but it is hard to stop because I care about him so much. I like how our relationship is now, but I would give it up in a heartbeat if he would get his faith back.
I don't really know what to say to him because I don't want to seem judgmental, and the way I live my life right now is not really on track either. He is the kind of person who wants scientific proof of Christianity. His brain just works like that. He always has books about religion in his room, so I know he still has a lot of questions. I really feel like God put me in his life for a reason, and I don't want to let him pass out of my life without trying to help him.
Sorry this is so long, but I wanted to tell you the whole story and see if you had any advice about what I could do. I pray for him a lot of every day, and it breaks my heart knowing that if he died today he wouldn't go to heaven. What happened to you that finally led you back to God?
I'll try to answer both the question that you put in words (it isn't your real question, but I'll come back to that), and a couple of other questions that you don't put in words but do ask between the lines.
The question you put in words is how I finally returned to God. Well, not because anyone called my bluff. Nor through recognition of my own foolishness. Nor through love. Nor through learning. Nor even through the agony I had brought upon myself. I did tell God one night that I didn't believe in Him — that if He existed, He could have me, but He would have to show me, because I couldn't tell. Though I felt like a fool for this prayer, He did answer it, in His own time. I came, months later, to feel a greater and greater horror about myself: An overpowering true intuition that my condition was objectively evil. This intuition contradicted everything I had been telling myself, but it had authority, commanding assent — and I assented. Though I didn't know it at the time, it was what John's Gospel calls the conviction of sin. In answer to my forgotten prayer, the Holy Spirit had been secretly cutting a door in the stone wall of my self-deception. From that, everything followed.
Now the reason that I don't think how I came back to God is your real question is that you already had the answer to it when you wrote. You see, I've told my story right in my book, and you mention that you've read it. When I ask myself "What is the young lady's real question?", I notice these three facts:
- Your letter presents itself as being about your friend.
- Although you are deeply concerned about his loss of faith, you don't actually talk about how you might help him return to his faith.
- What you do talk about is your own feelings and actions toward him: you write that you're strongly attracted to him, that you're not dating him, that you've become "physical" with him, and that the way you live your life is not on track. Will you forgive me for being blunt? I don't think your friend's spiritual condition is the real reason you wrote; I think yours is. At some level you realize that you are in a spiritually dangerous position, but you aren't sure that you want to get out of it. You sort of want someone to tell you that it's okay, but deep down you also want someone to tell you that it isn't.
Well, I'll take the job. I'm sorry, but from a genuinely Christian point of view you really do need to get out of the situation. It really isn't okay. In the first place, it may keep your friend away from Christ — yes, really! — because of your bad example to him. In the second place, it may lead you away from Christ yourself. You may be right that God first put you in your friend's life for a reason, but since then you haven't been doing it God's way. Whatever God's purpose is for the relationship, you cannot be obedient to it unless you are obedient to God in all the other ways, too.
Here's what I mean. You have been deceiving yourself in at least two different ways.
Self-deception #1: "I'm not dating him." You may not be officially dating him, true. But you spend lots of time with him and you are involved socially, romantically, and physically with him, and these things are more than equivalent to dating. As you already know, you shouldn't allow yourself to become entwined with anyone it wouldn't be all right to marry, and it wouldn't be all right to marry anyone who doesn't share your Christian faith.
Self-deception #2: "Being physical is okay, so long as we don't have sex." Let us be honest about what being "physical" means. It means doing things with him that sexually arouse you. I'm sure you remember what I wrote about that in How to Stay Christian in College. God invented sexual arousal, but He invented it as a preparation for sexual intercourse, and He reserves sexual intercourse for married people. Saying "We'll do things that arouse us, but we won't have sex" is futile and dishonest.
Self-deception #3: "It's hard not to be physical because I care about him so much." This isn't about how much you care for him; it's about how much you like those sexual feelings you get with him. "Caring for him" means desiring what's good for him, and being a source of sexual temptation to him is hardly conducive to his good.
If you really do have some care for your friend, then what you have to do is (1) cut off both the physical and the romantic side of the relationship, (2) make it clear to him that this is what you're doing, and (3) don't spend any time with him alone, or you'll be right back where you started.
I realize that purity is hard, but God never promised that it would be easy. What He promised was that His help would be sufficient. That's really true, you know.
Grace and peace,
Copyright 2001 Professor Theophilus. All rights reserved.