What To Do When Friendships Change
It’s a fact of life that people change and as a result friendships also change. For most Christians, a change in the dynamics of a friendship is a very common experience. But why? And how should we react? Here are four important things to remember when friendships change.
1) Jesus Has Changed You
It is a central truth to the Christian doctrine that when somebody comes to Jesus, they change. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that ‘anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!’ Jesus takes our life and He makes it His own. Not only have we been changed the moment that we come to Him (because we have moved from death to life), but He also continues to change us and renew us day by day. Our way of thinking changes (Romans 12:2 says, ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind’). This means that our actions change as a result of a new way of thinking, which leads to a change in our habits, and therefore our character changes.
Some people may say that this isn’t necessarily good thing – friends may question, ‘what happened to the old you?’ The truth is that Jesus is changing us to become our true selves. When the Holy Spirit works in and through us, we actually become more and more like the woman or man of God that we were always created to be; our true, authentic selves. And we know that the pattern of this world brings death, but Jesus gives us life (and life to the full – see John 10:10).
So how should a Christian react when their friends aren’t happy with the changes that are taking place?
First and foremost, they should never compromise Jesus for the sake of keeping friends. Don’t feel guilty about changing – the change in you is amazing because God is revealing more and more of Himself to you and transforming you to become like Him, pouring out grace upon grace and giving you life to the full. Just continue to love God, and love people. Jesus said these were the two greatest commands, and loving God comes first. If you’ve done things to hurt others (perhaps you’ve completely cut them off ever since you came to Christ, or you have judged them, or you have shown hatred or anger), bring it to God and ask for forgiveness from those people, and then see if you can put things right. You still need to love them, but that doesn’t mean compromising Jesus for them. Stand firm in the faith, whilst still loving people.
2) When the World Hates You
Perhaps one of the biggest misunderstandings of Christianity is that your life will be perfect when you come to Christ. This is just simply untrue.
There are so many instances when Jesus speaks of the world hating you because you follow Him.
Jesus said, ‘If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.’ (John 15:18) It would be pretty rubbish if He just told us that the world would hate us, and leave it at that. But He doesn’t. He encourages us by saying that the world is actually hating Him. If people are hating you, they are actually hating Jesus in you. And believe me, Jesus can take it. He experienced the worst kind of hatred at the crucifixion. The man who deserved the most love and adoration experienced the least.
Jesus later says that He has ‘told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ (John 16:33). Notice that He says ‘you will have trouble’ – it’s a fact that as a Christian, you will experience difficulties, and this may very well come in the form of losing a friend or even hatred from someone who you thought loved you. It must be noted that this doesn’t mean we should go looking for hate, but we should fully expect it.
Look at everything else Jesus says in this verse – He’s overcome the world, we should take heart, and He has told us these things in advance so that we can have peace knowing that He has overcome it all – a peace that surpasses all understanding (see Philippians 4:7).
We have a sure hope of eternity with Him, and when we have a Kingdom view, it puts everything into perspective. Hebrews 12:2-3 gives some great encouragement:
‘…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.’
3) Different Opinions ≠ End of Friendships
A difference in opinion DOES NOT equal the end of a friendship. You may no longer be interested in the same things, but that doesn’t mean the friendship has to come to an end. There may be a period when you are both getting used to the changes that are happening, but that’s okay. They’re still someone who Jesus loves, and so are you – so continue to show that to them.
Instead of saying ‘I stopped doing *this*’, say what you now do and why. It isn’t just about refraining from sin and things that you now know are destructive, but it’s about bringing something new to the table: LIFE. Jesus didn’t come just to tell us to stop doing stuff. In fact, it was never about that anyway – it is about Him coming into our mess, saving us, and then teaching us a new, better way to live. A life that you could have never dreamed of.
We underestimate the power of prayer all too often. Pray into your relationships/friendships, and see God move.
You can also offer to pray for your friends. Show them that you truly believe there is power in prayer. If they are telling you about their problems, tell them honestly what you would do – and I hope that would be bringing it to Jesus, because we know that He is the only one who can truly help and bring a deep peace.
Be relatable. Your mission isn’t to make your friends into ‘conversion projects’ – it’s to love them, and to show them who Jesus is through your love, both by your words and your actions.
Let them know that the change in you does not mean that you don’t love them anymore. Jesus loves them as much as He loves you. You are no different or better than them. You are not perfect. You both need a Saviour.
Show them the Saviour through your love.
If this is something you can relate to or is eye opening, comment and let me know how. Have you ever had a friendship change during your walk? If so, how did God fix it?